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Gendering International Political Economy

Catherine Hoskyns and Shirin Rai

CSGR Working Paper No. 170/05

In this paper we argue that the gap between economic analysis and the rest of human life needs to be explored and bridged. The difference in economic criteria being applied to our life-worlds is often justified by the statement that economic analysis is only attempting to explain a certain part of life – albeit an important one. The danger is that this artificial separation allows distortions to creep in because in the real world issues to do with ‘body politics’, and social reproduction more broadly, permeate economics as well as all other aspects of life. International Political Economy (IPE) has sought to bring together the study of states and the study of markets in a global context. What needs doing now is to extend and transform the scope of IPE by incorporating the study of households and the function of social reproduction centrally in the analysis. In dealing with gaps and dissonances, feminist and gender research provides cross-disciplinary analysis and targeted research tools, addressing, in particular the issues arising from the unequal structural position of women and men in social and economic spheres. This kind of research has also opened up certain concepts, for example, production and the market to political scrutiny and demonstrated how these re-conceptualised elements, together with new concepts like social reproduction and the care economy might be integrated into mainstream political economy both at the theoretical and policy levels (Elson, 1995). In this paper we explore these issues in moredetail. This involves establishing the dimensions of the problem, as demonstrated first by the way in which IPE and other related disciplines continue to marginalize rather than incorporate feminist work, and second by the treatment in mainstream economics of the role of the household. We go on to set the problem in its global context, examining the decline of ‘embedded liberalism’, the rise of the competition state and the implications of this for women. We then look at the debate on these issues in both its structural and post-modern forms and how this throws light on contemporary situations. . Finally, we present an alternative conceptualisation, which gives equal weight to the domestic, market and state spheres and suggest two different ways in which the incorporation of the domestic into the international political economy might be theorised. In all of this, we are interested in solutions, which have resonance in both South and North and help to reveal the structural links between them.

Key words : gendered international political economy, social reproduction, markets, national accounting, domestic economy, state, women's work