Feminism and Tenets of Philosophy of Economics: The Sustainability Connections

Feminism and Tenets of Philosophy of Economics: The Sustainability Connections

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4995-8.ch005

Abstract

The neoclassical school of economics does not consider the role of gender in the factors of production. Any production function within the neoclassical paradigm considers labour as a factor of production. However, it does not show how production of any economic output is determined by the type of labour, which is categorized by gender. To illustrate, certain jobs and output might require a skill that can be comparatively better owned by a female than a male. In such cases, the factor labour needs to have a gender, skill attribution within the neoclassical paradigm of production function. Thus, in the present context of neoclassical economics-based production theories, there is a scope of introducing gender discourses. Moreover, resources should also be seen as an important factor of production in the mainstream neoclassical school of thinking. This becomes very important in the context of fast degrading natural resources within the world, which is moving blindly towards a resource-intensive economic growth path. Here, the concept of viewing nature as a mother brings a larger conservative attitude towards nature, which can affect the short term, long term levels of factors of production and, hence, the economic outputs. These facets are totally neglected by the mainstream neoclassical school of thought. This chapter outlines some of these thoughts that affect the economic and social domains of sustainability.
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Introduction

This chapter mentions how basic tenets of neoclassical school of economics maintains a silence about women, nature and the interconnections between women, nature and production process.

There is a resistance that exists in the mainstream neoclassical school of economic thinking in streamlining feminist concerns to the thinking process of neoclassical school. This article therefore attempts to create a discussion towards that streamlining in order to move forward the school of neoclassical school of economics thinking addressing a key domain of social aspects of sustainability viz. tenets of feminism. Such a streamlining exercise will create a larger holistic identity of the mainstream school of economics.

Women do have a crucial, important role to play in generating output and as economic agents generating labour that goes in the production of output. Labour which is reproduced, nurtured and cared by a woman determines the quality of this critical input in the output production. Mainstream economic thinking does not recognize this aspect of creation of a quality labour by women in our society that is critically important in determining production levels of output. Sufferings of women at the household level from oppression, absence of health care, lack of proper attention and exposure to abject poverty, larger societal curses can affect physical and mental health. This can also affect the regenerative and nurturing quality of women which is naturally internalized in a woman. Through such effects, quality of labour that goes into the production of output can be affected. So, the larger question of women empowerment, better mental and physical health of a woman is critically important to control the quality of labour and output as seen in neoclassical production function.

In the neoclassical school, output is produced using labour and capital. But nowhere, do we see a mention of attributing the finer issues of how a nature of labour is imbibed in a production of output. It is precisely when we get into the discussion of the nature of labour used in a production function we get into a gender dimension imbibed in the production process. It is surprising to see that entire neoclassical discussion on production function so mechanically calculates series of equations, difficult mathematical formulations, and marginal productivity of labour without asking trivial questions of from whom this labour is coming from. It doesnot ask the question of who is that human being from whom this labour comes. There is a scope to create a larger dimension of bringing in the coexistential aspects of human beings including both female and male in the neoclassical production function discussions dealing with labour inputs for generating outputs.. These approaches donot ask the question about what are the humanistic, gender oriented psychological sensitivities of labour which is seen as an input in producing this output. Concept of labour also has a connection to the body of a human being which is thought to be as a determining factor towards the quality of an input in the production of an output.

Philosophical origins of western thought regarding the body of a human being raises the following points. Western thoughts stemming from Aristotelian view suggests that a body of a human being when reproduced comes from a female whereas the soul comes from a male. Plato has also mentioned that soul rules over body and through this logic implicitly there is a subjugation of a woman identity by the male identity. So this dominant view of male domination over woman originating from Greek philosophical thought has to be countered. A balanced view of the two genders need to be taken and applied while visualizing the nature, source and quality of labour that goes as an input in any production process. A broader, balanced, holistic and gender unbiased view of human identity has to be incorporated while considering labour inputs within the production process. The questioning defining the lense of a well judged, unbiased, gender sensitive human identity needs to be answered and incorporated before deciding on thesource, nature and type of labour in a production function. Such a lense has to be applied when any discussion on labour inputs for production of an output in a neoclassical production framework is considered. In such a framework no trivialization of female labour input should happen with a larger emphasis on a male labour input. A labour input can be seen more from a holistic community identity. Larger holistic nature of human existence has to be imbibed in the consideration of source, origin and nature of labour which is used as an input in the neoclassical production process.

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