Feminist economics

Feminist economics challenges the foundations of neoclassical economic theory, arguing that it is based on white, privileged, male ideas, that fail to take into account the realities of any other group. As a result, the principal arguments of mainstream economics (such as selfish ‘rational’ choice) are questioned. Further to this, questions are also raised about the ways in which mainstream economists generate knowledge and the negative effect that the exclusion of non-market work from national income accounts has on women. A primary objective of feminist economics is to change the sexist and exclusionary nature of traditional economics. It is hoped that this would change the policy recommendations that result from it, and improve life for women and other marginalised or excluded groups.

Feminist economics does not consist of one fixed group of ideas. However, there are several common approaches to feminist economics that are worth highlighting. First, there is greater comprehension of the processes that support life and social provision. This includes an enhanced understanding of the processes of inclusion and exclusion, in particular (but not exclusively) in relation to gender. Second, there is a commitment to intersectional analysis, taking into consideration the different social layers that define people’s lives and identities. Third, there is the recognition of the need to value unpaid domestic work and caregiving, and use wellbeing as the central measure of economic success. Fourth, there is a belief in the importance of social action and in the need to incorporate ethical judgments in economic analysis.

Through the use of a feminist economics approach within this project, we will ensure that human interactions, collective organisation, care work, mutual aid and other non-financial transactions are included within the economic analysis carried out. By using this lens, we will be recognising the power dynamics within households and communities. We will be making clear distinctions between individuals within each household, and where the power lies within specific interactions, particularly around income, debt, paid and unpaid work, and livelihood opportunities. Similarly, within communities and neighbourhoods, we will be asking about relationships, cooperation strategies and power dynamics between households and amongst the community. This will allow us to better understand the processes of inclusion and exclusion within economic life, the value placed on care and domestic work, and the importance of social interaction and identity for those living within displacement-affected communities.

A feminist economics approach will be a lens through which we look at our research. In a practical sense, this will mean adjusting the approaches taken within more traditional quantitative and qualitative tools to include questions that capture information on care work, paid work, the dynamics in the household of caring and being cared for, and debt (amongst other topics). It will also mean employing specific methods including the use of photos, illustrations, filmmaking and other methodologies that are useful for this kind of enquiry.