1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Book review on "New Frontiers in Feminist Political Economy", edited by Shirin Rai and Georgina Waylen, in Gender & Development

15 Jan 2015



This outstanding volume summarises the gains and setbacks in progressing from the early stages of getting women into development thinking and practice, to the current state of a global feminist political economy that challenges dominant orthodoxies in economic thinking. It celebrates the lives and work of Professors Diane Elson and Ruth Pearson. As scholars, public intellectuals, and activists, the pair have shaped the field of feminist economics/political economy, and inspired a generation of scholars. This Festschrift volume provides both a fitting tribute to their scholarship and activism, and a significant addition to the literature on contemporary feminist political economy (FPE).

The collection maps important shifts from a gendered analysis of development to a global political economy focused not ‘simply on the market economy with growth and accumulation as its primary goals’ but on the ‘provisioning of human needs and human well-being’ (p. 7). An excellent introduction by Shirin Rai and Georgina Waylen summarises key contributions of Diane Elson and Ruth Pearson, from the work on ‘nimble fingers’ to an elaboration of the links between production and reproduction – including its extension to global supply chains – and Diane Elson’s work on male bias in macro-economics. The volume focuses on four central themes of FPE emanating from their work: understanding economies as gendered structures and economic crises as crises also of social reproduction; assessing economic policies through the lens of women’s rights; analysing global transformations in women’s work; and making visible the unpaid or care economy (p. 6). It locates the analyses within the context of a global crisis that ‘exposes yet again the inadequacies of the dominant models’ (p. 1), a theme elaborated by Diane Elson in her concluding chapter.
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Sarah Cook is UNRISD Director.

To view the entire review, please click here.