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‘Gendering the Crisis’: Scandalous Economics reviewed

by Paul Cammack on August 31, 2016

ScandalTwo spectres haunt this thoughtful and thought-provoking collection. The first, prominent throughout, is the spectre of transnational business feminism: the book directly addresses the dismal prospect that however questionable its foundations, it will play a part in rescuing neoliberalism from its global crisis and perhaps reshaping global capitalism. The second, for which the enticing spirit summoned up by (neo)liberal feminists is preparing the way, lurks in the shadows and is revealed only in fleeting glimpses. It is the ghost of Capitalism Future, presiding over a dystopian world in which the politics of austerity (essentially the reduction of wages and welfare to the strict minimum required to reproduce the bare labour power that capital requires) combines with the commodification of everything (including female labour, provisioning, and human reproduction itself) to render powerless what Wanda Vrasti calls ‘struggles [in the sphere of social reproduction] for “commoning” the resources and capacities needed to produce life’ (253). So while the book fizzes with energy and ideas, strong undercurrents of indignation and anxiety run through it.

It is divided into four parts (Scandalous Gendering, Scandalous Obfuscations, Scandalous Sex and Scandalizing Reimaginings respectively), with an Afterword, ‘Gendering the Crisis’, by Marieke de Goede. The editors and authors do not speak with a single voice. The range of perspectives deployed gives the book a conversational, critical and reflective tone around the linking theme of scandal – a device that is occasionally slightly forced, but works well enough. What makes it such a timely and valuable resource for developing a materialist feminist or gendered Marxist analysis is the emergent, dynamic and unresolved tension between two related but still quite different theoretical starting points – gender as a structure, and from there a focus on the actual and potential roles of women and men in capitalism and its crises, versus capitalism as a structure, and from there a focus on the gendered and wage-dependent household within it. The editors suggest that gender as a structure ‘both sustains and troubles the dominant paradigms of economic growth and sustainable development and their global governance’ (6). It troubles them by revealing the consistent gender biases in everyday capitalism, and the way in which the costs of crisis, recovery, and sustainability fall disproportionately on women, while it sustains them not only in the discourse and practice of liberal business feminism, but also, as De Goede comments in her afterword, if ‘gendered representation of financial crises as instances of madness, delusion, hysteria, and irrationality – as moments where rational financial man has lost sense of himself’ serve to ‘simultaneously construct the sphere of financial normality or rationality’ (270), and if a (perhaps insufficiently) critical feminist focus on ‘sexual excess and deviant Wall Street cultures’ works as ‘a strategy of obfuscation that deflects attention away from larger systemic questions’ (275). Elsewhere the household is identified as an essential point of reference and specifically as a ‘shock absorber’ in times of crisis, and the relationship between the household and the wider economy is addressed as a crucial aspect of capitalist reproduction. While the household is thoroughly gendered, it is also variably gendered over time and space, in ways that relate not to the innate characteristics of women and men respectively, but to the changing character of social production, the extent and nature of commodification, and the role of the wage. If this approach avoids the danger of essentialism, though, it courts another – that of a form of determinism which simply reads gender roles and politics off from the logic of capital. The challenge is to find a way forward that avoids both dangers.

The first problem the editors and contributors grapple with, then, is that gender has been invoked in responses to the latest global crisis in a range of narratives that are theoretically suspect and politically disempowering, but at the same time all too prominent and persuasive, adding insult to the injury of neoliberal hegemony restored. Such narratives make the ‘essentialist’ claims that women are naturally endowed with financial prudence, aversion to risk, capacity for empathetic leadership and a latent potential for entrepreneurial success, and that this makes them ideally suited to ‘clean up the mess’ made of global finance by reckless, testosterone-driven and rapacious men, and to lead the way to a balanced and sustainable global capitalist economy. The opening chapters develop a critique, without entirely dismissing essentialist ideas. In the introduction (placed in Part One, but covering the whole volume), the editors insist that feminist political economy ‘conceives gender relations to be socially and historically constructed, rather than a mere characteristic of individuals and their behaviour’, but still go on to say that ‘we analyze gender simultaneously as a feature of identity that shapes human behaviour, a structural division affecting the limits and possibilities of gender identities and roles, and as an integral part of our symbolic and normative order, which both constitutes and reinforces gender structures’ (6). They seem to buy in, provisionally at least, to the contrast between ‘habitual masculine selfishness (generator of economic growth)’ and ‘feminine altruism (protector of family)’ (11), and they suggest that the GFC has ‘created an opportunity for contesting the normal, masculine ways of governing the global economy’ (13). In the following chapters, though, Elisabeth Prügl nicely describes the discourse on women and the financial crisis as the ‘production of a myth’ that takes the narrative form of a morality play ending in redemption through the replacement of male arrogance with womanly virtue (24), while capitalism remains patriarchal and unreformed; and Jacqui True crisply dissects new narratives of women’s leadership (from Anne-Marie Slaughter, Sheryl Sandberg, and Deborah Spar). Each identifies these narratives as both stabilising and disempowering, and liable to ‘shore up the survival of the liberal capitalist system’ (43). These are good and necessary critical essays, and the arrival in my email of an unsolicited pamphlet entitled ‘Women, Naturally Better Leaders for the 21st Century’, extolling the virtues and value to business of ‘authentic, ethical and emotionally intelligent behaviours’ that operate ‘beyond the ego’ and hitting all the buzzwords (collaboration, developing others, emotional intelligence, empathy, sustainability, thought diversity), confirms their contemporary salience. They pinpoint a significant trend accelerated by the financial crisis.

BakkerSome of the broader implications of starting from the perspective of gender rather than wage-dependent households begin to emerge in the next chapter, as Adrienne Roberts develops the same theme further (59-60) on the basis of a feminist historical materialist perspective derived from Isabella Bakker and Stephen Gill. Her exploration of finance and financialization effectively critiques narratives that extol the benefits of liberalized finance for gender equality, but in the course of it she sets up a discursive chain that links financial deepening to gender equality by running directly from women through social reproduction to the wider political economy of neoliberalism, while silently shifting the focus from gender to the household in the wider capitalist economy:

Housing, for instance, has been linked to finance through the privatization and securitization of mortgages, while forms of consumption have been linked to financial markets as more and more people use credit cards to pay for food and other basic necessities. Education, which is also a key component of social reproduction, has been financialized through the student loan industry, while security in old age is now increasingly met through pension plans that invest heavily in financial markets. These examples all point to an important transformation in the sphere of social reproduction, which has been structurally linked to the broader processes of financialization noted earlier (61-2).

_t.jpgNone of these elements relates directly to gender equality, though, and what they all do point towards – the shift from state provision (funded indirectly by taxes on wages) to commodification and financialization (dependent directly on the wage) – calls for a focus on social production as a whole, and to something specific to capitalism: access to the means of subsistence mediated by wages, as argued by Antonella Picchio. Further pursuit of these issues under the optic of gender equality falls into the liberal feminist trap, for just as particular women (and indeed most women) may face a heavier burden as a consequence of crisis and intensified commodification and financialization, others may benefit as barriers to women’s access to the workplace are addressed, while gender-sensitive reforms to regimes of financialization may sustain them by making them more inclusive. Caught in this trap, Roberts concludes by gesturing towards alternative or anti-capitalist politics, but identifying and endorsing specific reforms – mandatory promotion of gender equality in the workplace and across the supply chain by all corporations, a ‘global financial transaction tax that directly transfers money to those most negatively affected by short-term financial flows’, and the supplementing of projects aimed at increasing women’s individual access to credit with others aimed at supporting women’s collective action to promote access and rights to resources – that in her own words ‘fail to challenge many of the power relations that intersect and overlap with those of gender’ (72).

The household comes much more directly into focus in Part Two, but with mixed results. It opens with a contrasting pair of essays on the politics of austerity. In the first, Daniela Tepe-Belfrage and Johnna Montgomerie critique the UK’s ‘Troubled Families’ programme as part of a broader process through which the costs of the crisis have been borne not by the ‘private’ sector but by the ‘household’ sector. It is more than ironic that at precisely the time the financial sector was broken, the rhetoric of ‘Broken Britain’ should have been applied to a small number (initially estimated as 120,000, then raised to 400,000) of poor families diagnosed as welfare-dependent sources of anti-social behaviour, addiction, criminality and unemployment, and their reproduction over time. The authors focus on the household ‘as a site where paid and unpaid labour coalesce to provide the necessary conditions for production, consumption, and social reproduction’ (81), and associate the contemporary politics of welfare with an earlier ‘liberal tradition to structure poor relief in punitive ways oriented towards getting the poor to work’ (83), quoting John Rodger: ‘the normal face of the welfare state is to manage the incentives of the population to work, and pay taxes and social insurance, and to discipline those who refuse to participate in the form of institutionalized solidarity that the welfare state represents’ (84). At the same time they dismiss ‘Marxism’ (represented by Nicos Poulantzas and Stephen Gill), as ‘fundamentally weak in conceptualizing the household’, and declare a preference for feminist political economy in the form of intersectional analysis, which ‘provides a conceptual and methodological framework to evaluate what differences and inequalities matter: the “welfare mother” or single woman with children, collecting state benefits and living in publicly funded housing (in this case also struggling with addiction or mental illness), is made an object of opprobrium while “the banker” or the wealthy urban male elite, close to political power, is tolerated as a necessary evil to ensure global economic competitiveness’ (81). This is a missed opportunity. Their analysis is strong on the genuinely scandalous symbolic politics of the Troubled Families programme, but it does not theorise the specific objective of securing the reproduction of the working class over time, and its link to wage-dependent households. The fact that the programme aimed both to cut welfare costs and to address exclusion from the labour market (the Department for Communities and Local Government (2014: 11) noted that ‘in nearly three-quarters of families (74%) families [sic] there was no-one in work compared to 17% of households nationally’) means that it was every bit as much about economic competitiveness as the bail-out (and more so, in fact, as the bail-out can be and has been seen as a concession to vested interests that is injurious of competitiveness).

The theme of competitiveness is central to the following chapter. Ian Bruff and Stefanie Wöhl see the combination of authoritarian state practices and ‘highly masculinized forms of competitiveness – such as risk affinity, strong work ethics, liquidity, growth and austerity’ as constituting ‘a strategy to displace the effects of crisis into another key site in the political economy, the household’ (93). But they note the prevalence of dichotomizing ideas of gender – rationality, strength, power, strong will, competitiveness, and working outside the home versus care, emotions, passivity, and sharing qualities – and the ‘artificial distinction between public labour (“productive”) and household labour (“domestic”)’ without either addressing the new discourse of female entrepreneurship, or noticing that clashing analytical frameworks lie behind these constructions. They reduce competitiveness entirely to a manifestation of the masculine in the contemporary political economy, ignoring the centrality of competition to capitalist reproduction, thereby obscuring its logic and reinforcing the dichotomy they set out to undermine. In the end, though, their account of responses to crisis in Spain and Ireland draws very little on such ‘masculinist’ claims, following instead the much sounder argument that ‘during times of capitalist crisis, the public/private divide and accompanying unpaid labour in the social reproduction of private households is often reinforced in order to secure the capitalist mode of production’ (101). All the appeal to masculinity does is cloud the issue.

The theme of the household in the wider capitalist economy moves to centre stage in the essays on East and Southeast Asia and Latin America that follow. In a valuable comparative discussion, Juanita Elias traces the image of women as drivers of economic recovery in the late-1990s ‘Asia crisis’, bringing to light the other side of that coin – ‘the extent to which ongoing forms of crisis, impoverishment and precarity are experienced in the everyday lives of Asian women and their households’ as they absorb the shock (110). She incidentally stretches the notion of ‘essentializing’ to breaking point, so that it comes to encompass the ‘enterprising, socially responsible and hard-working Asian woman (the micro-entrepreneur, remittance sender, and socially minded consumer)’, and even ‘rational economic woman’ (115-6), but also delivers a lucid analysis of ‘the way in which economic and social crises associated with state restructuring and the increased strains on the socially reproductive sphere are continually reproduced and sustained’ (123). On Latin America, Guillermina Seri initially addresses femicide as ‘the main scandal resulting from the crisis in the region’ (127). The issue is one of significance and gravity, but the argument is problematic. Nothing is said about the ten times higher rates of homicide, so gender-specific conclusions are hard to draw; neither in Brazil nor Mexico do figures for femicide for the period since 1985 correlate closely with changes in GDP; recent higher reported figures in the region may owe as much to the increased focus on femicide and other crimes against women as to an actual rise in cases (a dozen countries in the region have passed comprehensive laws on violence against women in the last decade); and the shocking case of Ciudad Juarez, which Seri highlights, is highly context-specific, and hotly debated (see Heather Agnew on femicide and drug war violence). So it is not easy to make a direct connection between the phenomenon of ‘femicide’ and the different claim that ‘crises intensify the demands placed on women and bring about extra pressure in all forms of women’s work – formal, informal and unpaid’ (128), and in truth Seri does not really try. But the second half of the essay on women’s double exploitation (in the labour market and the household) and their relationship with the state and the market in the region (131-42) has independent merit. It makes the crucial argument that under capitalism, ‘most individuals found themselves forced to sell their labour [power] and to work for a wage to meet basic needs’ (132), offers a nuanced and widely sourced account of household structures and the impact of crisis upon them, and critiques effectively such ‘pro-women’ initiatives as cash transfers and micro-finance.

At this point the focus switches to visible manifestations of the crisis in media representation and scandals. Scandals first. In the first essay in Part Three, Celeste Montoya examines the sexual assault case involving IMF Director-General Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York in 2011, and in the second Aida Hozić addresses the telephone hacking scandal in the UK. Montoya’s account of the “DSK affair” and the light it throws on global sexual/gender relations has parallels with the contrast drawn earlier between welfare mothers and bankers in ‘Broken Britain’. But the notion of parallel macro (neoliberal and IMF policy towards the developing world) and micro ‘rape scripts’ falls down from the start: ‘Dominique Strauss-Kahn is not the perfect embodiment of neoliberalism. Almost paradoxically, he seemed to be leading the IMF in a different direction, away from structural adjustment and austerity measures and with a more meaningful emphasis on human development. Yet, at the same time, he was an active participant in the financial industry’s culture of misogyny and sexual exploitation’ (146). This is not paradoxical at all, any more than it is ‘somewhat ironic’ (157). Simply, whatever connections may be drawn, the logics of global capital and sexual violence are distinctive, and neither can be entirely assimilated to the other. As with Bruff and Wöhl, and Seri, the initial focus drops away, and the essay concludes with a strong and critical account of the gender-specific content and consequences of IMF policy. Hozić’s essay suggests that scandals ‘do not just smooth over the fissures of representation [in financial crises] but displace existing anxieties, set limits to transgressions, and reinforce boundaries between public and private lives’, obscuring the relevance of gender through the noise they generate and ironically producing ‘powerful stabilizing effects on social norms and gender relations’ (165). This strikes me as rather arbitrary, depending on the nature and outcome of the scandal and the kind of noise it generates. I was not persuaded anyway that the phone-hacking scandal offers an apposite test – as would perhaps the LIBOR rate-setting scandal, which is situated firmly in the financial field and exhibits on the face of it some classic male-pattern behaviour. Hozić consequently struggles to make the connection to financial crisis, especially as the first phase of the scandal broke before the financial crisis did. The scandal itself is barely discussed, and the essay is an awkward fit in the collection.

The third article in the section examines visual representations of the crisis in popular culture. Penny Griffin argues reasonably enough that ‘key visual moments in the history of the crisis tell us a great deal about the nature and proposed responses to the crisis and, perhaps most significant, who enjoys the power to make their meanings circulate in the world of economic relations’ (182). She is on strong ground when she says that the coverage of the financial crisis in Time and the Economist ‘locates finance directly in the world of men’, but otherwise she falters in her analysis of specific images: an image of a male banker in a corset is reproduced with no reference to the fact that the term is a quasi-official one for constraints placed by the Bank of England on excessive monetary expansion, while comment on an image of ‘banksters’ in dark glasses not only omits to point out either the context (the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal) or the linguistic association with gangsters, but also ignores the accompanying editorial, which called time on the cartel maintained by a small and privileged group of male insiders and identified two public-interest tasks that lay ahead, the first ‘to find out exactly what happened and to punish those involved’, and the second to ‘change the way finance is run—and the culture of banking’ (as relayed in the Economist). It pointed precisely, that is to say, to the ‘weaknesses of a system predicated on the unprecedented concentration of social power among a privileged few’ that Griffin highlights (199) as a superior critical perspective in her conclusion. Whatever else such images may connote, they do not ‘reveal how – far from being challenged by critique and counterposition – dominant, capitalist (neoliberal) discourse has been enabled and encouraged, throughout the crisis and beyond, by specifically gendered narratives of achievement, responsibility, trustworthiness, and reliability’ (200).

The editors’ description of the final part of the book – Scandalizing Imaginings – gives an indication of its range: it considers ‘how the crisis is generating new subjectivities and new points of resistance, including, for instance, the resistance produced through queer economics, racialized struggles, the gendered dimensions of the Occupy protest movement, and feminist science fiction’ (16). Of the three contributions, Anna Agathangelou’s is the most provocative; Nicola Smith’s the most accomplished; and Wanda Vrasti’s, though flawed, the most productive of new ways forward. Agathangelou’s account of the Greek crisis from the perspective of the ‘global raciality of capitalism’ sets out to provoke from the start by gratuitously citing a Canadian student on the need for a new Führer and German conquest of Europe (205), hazarding that Merkel is the new Führer, and accusing corporations, bankers, the World Bank and the IMF of drawing on metaphors of race, biology, technology and social difference to describe their work and rationalise their market strategies as they turn Greece into a laboratory, ‘experimenting with organisational forms, financial instruments, regimes of capital accumulation, and working relationships within a changing EU imperial bureaucracy’ (207). She protests immediately that she is not ‘making a blanket accusation of an emerging white imperial supremacy whose goal is more profits’, but walks a fine line – especially as she elsewhere presents the ‘neoliberal imperium’ in precisely these terms, see Transforming World Politics. Her reading of (German) ordoliberalism as permitting a ‘masculine assertion of mutual benefit’ and depending on ‘governance instruments that regulate international debts working to secure capital’s rights and claim at the expense of poor states at large, lower income-generating peripheries in Europe, women and people of colour’ (211) is tendentious, exorbitant, and entirely unsupported by evidence (though conveniently confirmed by its absence); the confusion of James Bond and Dirty Harry (220) does not help. At the same time, her excellent substantive account of the imposition of neoliberal demands upon Greece and the effort ‘to restructure labour relations and constitutional powers’ (223) details compellingly the effort to subject households to the logic of global capital as ‘the economic mechanisms of competition and cost benefit analyses are fostered within their homes, within themselves’ (225). Where I differ is in seeing this as a universal project, aimed by participating governments above all at all their own citizens, rather than as an imperial project, or one that is directly sexual or racial in character.

ButlerNicola Smith’s queer political economy of crisis is much more sober in tone, and much more effective. She details the substantial negative material impact of the crisis and accompanying cuts on queer lives in the UK, then sets out to ‘interrogate how “crisis” itself is constituted through heteronormative gender logics and power relations’ (231), following Judith Butler’s claim that ‘the economic, tied to the productive, is necessarily linked to the reproduction of heterosexuality’. She advances her argument that ‘heteronormative imaginaries of “the family” are themselves playing an important role in reproducing the neoliberal order’ through a critique of the championing of equal or “gay” marriage by Cameron and others as a deliberate strategy to buy off dissent across LGBT/Q communities, and a stinging attack on liberal elites within them who have embraced it while ignoring the material sufferings of the poorest and least privileged: ‘there has, on the whole, been silence about the impact of austerity on sexual in/justice’ instead, it is the issue of equal marriage that has dominated LGBT/Q politics and activism in recent years’ (232). Single issue proponents of equal marriage, on this argument, are the queer equivalents of transnational business feminists, though she does not directly say so. She contends, rather, that ‘equal marriage is both positioned within, and made intelligible through, neoliberal and heteronormative discourses that attribute economic and social crisis to the failure of individual families and which naturalize neoliberal capitalism as a system of oppression in the process’ (232). The essay is a model of reasoned polemic, concisely and beautifully argued, though I take issue with the endorsement of Butler’s claim (ibid: 272) that it is to socialist feminists that we owe the expansion of ‘understandings of political economy to include processes of social reproduction’ (233) – for all the world as if Marx had never written that the ‘capitalist process of production … seen as a total, connected process, i.e. a process of reproduction, produces not only commodities, not only surplus-value, but it also produces and reproduces the capital-relation itself; on the one hand the capitalist, on the other the wage-labourer’. Picchio and others have built impressively on this theme, but no progressive interests are served if links that exist are severed. Marx also commented in passing (and has been taken to task for it), that ‘[t]he maintenance and reproduction of the working class remains a necessary condition for the reproduction of capital. But the capitalist may safely leave this to the worker’s drives for self-preservation and propagation’ (ibid: 718). This prompts further reflection, not least in relation to Smith’s echoing of Butler’s linking of the “economic” to heterosexuality. It is a simple empirical fact that in Marx’s time capitalists left the generational renewal of the working class to that class (while governments were concerned if anything to limit rather than encourage population growth). It is also true that at that time the only known means of reproduction was through physical coupling between women and men, and that the late Victorian age saw the emergence of new and enduring ideologies of the family and male and female roles within it. But the neoliberal era has coincided (not coincidentally) with the erosion of the reality as well as the Victorian ideal of the ‘male breadwinner’ family, and the commodification of generational reproduction, while technological advances have destroyed any necessary link with heteronormativity. While a number of governments around the world have adopted strongly natalist policies in response to falling birth rates, capitalists have by and large continued and accelerated their age-old tradition of replacing human hands with machines, so the issues are more complex than Butler or Smith allow.

There is food for thought here then, and it leads on seamlessly to Wanda Vrasti’s invocation of Silvia Federici’s concept of a ‘self-reproducing movement’ (‘forms of life in which political activism is not separated from the tasks of our daily reproduction’, 250) as a basis for a politics of resistance, and her argument that struggles in the sphere of reproduction for “commoning” the resources and capacities to needed to produce life ‘are also struggles against the separation between individuals and means of production, needs and capacities, production and social reproduction, and within individuals themselves reproduced under capitalism’ (citing Endnotes, 2010). This is where I started this review, and it is the appropriate starting point for what one might call either a materialist feminist or gendered Marxist analysis, and therefore right place for a dialogue or conversation to begin. ‘As capital spreads its crisis tendency to the sphere of reproduction’, Vrasti argues, ‘enclosing people’s homes, savings, and access to health care, effectively undermining their capacity to live and labour, radical politics had to respond with a counter-movement that prioritizes the production of life (the need for food, education, care, mutual aid, sociality) above all else’ (252). She develops the point by evoking the idea of a ‘crisis of imagination’, then turns to feminist utopias based upon self-activity and self-provisioning, drawing on Mierle Lademan Ukeles’ 1969 Manifesto of Maintenance Art, Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), and the Occupy encampments of 2011-2012 to explore further the potential for self-reproducing movements. The latter is the only ‘real-life example of a self-reproducing movement’ among the three (there are plenty more, from Greenham Common to Faslane), and on the basis of it Vrasti concludes that a ‘politics of this intensity is bound to be short-lived’, low on strategic planning and calculated action, and likely therefore to undermine its own chances for reproduction (263). The conclusion, that ‘radical politics today has to incorporate an attention to principles and values traditionally associated with feminism: basic need provision, socialization, and an attention to emotion’ (265), could perhaps be said to hint towards a [utopian] essentialism, but this is a secondary issue. A Marxist response could not possibly dismiss the prioritization of the production of life (it is after all the basis of Marx’s youthful analysis of the alienation inherent in capitalism, and of his conception of communism as a form of social organization). But it would suggest not only that crises are necessarily simultaneously crises of social production and reproduction, but also that the drive to reshape the ‘production of life’ in order to make it conform to and support the logic of capitalist reproduction is intrinsic to capitalism itself from its inception. In order to survive and continue, it must constantly reproduce the working class not only as a living mass, but as a living mass of available wage-labourers. In other words, returning to Picchio, it must be made to depend, directly or indirectly, on the sale of labour power to capital in return for a wage. As another recent issue of Endnotes commented:

Wage-labour is the only way the worker can have access to the means necessary for their own reproduction and that of their family. … In fact, the general tendency towards “feminisation” is not the gendering of the sex-blind market, but rather the movement by capital towards the utilisation of cheap short-term flexibilised labour-power under post-Fordist, globalised conditions of accumulation, increasingly deskilled and “just-in-time”. We must take this definition of feminisation as primary, before we attend to the rise of the service sector and the increasing importance of care and affective labour, which is part and parcel of the “feminisation turn”. … We are now prepared to address the gender question. What then is gender? For us, it is the anchoring of a certain group of individuals in a specific sphere of social activities. The result of this anchoring process is at the same time the continuous reproduction of two separate genders  (my emphasis).

This collection succeeds outstandingly in opening up spaces for new and necessary conversations with classical Marxism around issues of crucial contemporary significance. My take on it, as is evident, is that a focus on wage-dependent households in the broader capitalist economy in the context of accelerated commodification and global competitiveness will prove more productive than a focus on issues of identity outside the specific context of capitalist social relations of (re)production. Marieke de Goede, in her afterword, dwells more on the ‘gendered representations of financial crisis and its rescue’ in the collection, the way the acknowledgement of “female virtues” tends to ‘function to limit political response and critical questioning’ (268), and the implications for modes of ethics and subjectivity, with Judith Butler again an important point of reference. But in doing so, she advances a gendered perspective on ‘everyday finance’, acknowledging the complex chains that link households to its global circuits and the equally complex distribution of responsibility, and identifying in doing so a rich theme in the collection itself and for future research: ‘financial subjects can play a role in challenging and possibly rerouting the daily practices through which their own subjectivity emerges’ (278). Many other paths through and developments out of this volume can be readily imagined, and its publication should be recognised as a significant event.

This post was previously published on Paul Cammack’s critical political economy site What’s Worth Reading

Paul Cammack
Paul Cammack graduated in English Literature in 1971, went to Chile (1971-3), got into studying and teaching Latin American and Third World Politics and shifted into global political economy, most recently at the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and City University Hong Kong. He is currently Honorary Professorial Research Fellow in the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester. Recent publications are available at, and recent book reviews at

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