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date: 05 March 2021

(p. 259) Gendered Political Economy: Production and Reproduction

Perhaps mirroring political science more generally, political economy has long been a somewhat neglected dimension within the gender and politics scholarship. But in recent years, it has increasingly been recognized as a potentially significant and necessary element of that scholarship, and many scholars have done more to include it in their analyses. Indeed, as part of the interdisciplinarity of the gender and politics scholarship, it is not surprising that it can draw on and bring together insights from gender scholars working in a range of disciplines including development studies, economics, international relations, international political economy, sociology, and social policy as well as feminist theory and analysis more generally. But by the same token gender has also been neglected within standard political economy of all variants—liberal, critical, and Marxist—so gender scholars have also fought to have gender and feminist analysis recognized as an important dimension within political economy that gives rise to valuable new interpretations and insights.

(p. 260) The inclusion of a section on political economy in this handbook is premised on several assumptions. First, a political economy section provides an additional dimension to long-standing and recognized debates within gender and politics, for example, around the gendered nature of governance and women’s mobilization that are recognizably politics, however it is defined. Second, a political economy perspective helps to place the global dimension more to the fore within the gender and politics scholarship. This work has in the past often been quite narrowly focused on the national level. So, for example, it facilitates the incorporation of gendered analyses of globalization and global restructuring as well as of global processes such as migration that impact on debates around citizenship and nation and other themes that often figure within gender and politics scholarship. Finally, the key themes of a gendered political economy, such as the necessity of looking at the profound and fundamental links between production and reproduction, have particular implications for the ways we understand important themes such as welfare, care, the family and household, employment, and the sexual division of labor. The incorporation of debates around social reproduction also give us new ways of thinking about the public–private divide and the nature of the private sphere and the role of the family within it—issues that have long preoccupied gender and politics scholars and political theorists. Of course, incorporating social reproduction into political economy and economics in general also improves the mainstream analyses that have tended to downplay its role to the detriment of their overall understanding and the policy prescriptions that emerge.

This section contains four chapters, beginning with an overview piece by Shirin Rai. She argues that gendered (international) political economy (GIPE) has much in common with feminist political economy—indeed, the terms can be used almost interchangeably. In her overview, Rai begins by introducing the concepts that are central to a gendered (international) political economy and a feminist political economy and that also inform the other three chapters. Perhaps foremost among these are the concepts of production and reproduction (and the associated notions of accumulation and consumption). Rai explores how these are inextricably linked and fundamentally gendered before turning in the rest of the chapter to examine regimes of governance at different levels—global, national, and local and the struggles for transformation in the form of challenges to the global capitalist system—all through the prism of GIPE. She argues that the critical argument made by the GIPE literature is about the subsidy that gendered domestic work, often within the household and the family, gives to the capitalist system as a whole and that this subsidy is overlooked in both economic theory and policymaking. We therefore need to highlight the impact that this neglect has not only on scholarship but also on the lives of those engaged in social reproduction.

The key themes of GPE are then explored in more detail in the subsequent three chapters. Each has a primary emphasis on a different aspect of the gendering of production, social reproduction and its attendant relationship (p. 261) with the associated notions of the public–private divide and the role of unpaid domestic and care work (primarily undertaken by women) in particular. Shahra Razavi focuses on social reproduction in the private sphere in terms of the family and household. Using illustrations from all over the world, she demonstrates that the particular forms that households and families take are context specific and have different meanings in different places. As a consequence, the changes to family and household forms exacerbated by processes of globalization and capitalist transformation have played out differently in different locations. Razavi ends by discussing some of the policy implications that flow from her analysis.

Diane Sainsbury also takes up the theme of social reproduction but primarily in terms of the gendering of care work and welfare provision in both the public and private spheres. She begins by discussing conceptions of care and defining the concept of care. She then goes on to deal with the care dimensions of welfare states and the variety of policy responses. The third part of the chapter examines explanations for the policy responses, concentrating on gender relations, the economics of care, and the politics of care. The final section of the chapter moves beyond nation states to examine care across borders, specifically looking at the European Union, international organizations, and global migration. In her analysis Sainsbury focuses primarily on industrialized countries with established welfare states as the context in which most of the feminist theorizing and analysis has taken place to date. Overall, Sainsbury highlights two important trends—the globalization of care and the commodification of care and their implications for the gender division of labor—arguing that the analysis of both promises to reinvigorate theorizing and empirical studies on gender, care, and welfare.

Finally Lucy Ferguson looks at paid work and the sexual division of labor, underlining again the links between the productive and reproductive spheres and the ways they are gendered. She argues that work is one of the key processes through which gender is played out in contemporary societies, influencing and disciplining the ways different actors interact between the public and private spheres. She brings together concepts from feminist economics, sociology, gendered political economy, and development to show how the gender dynamics of paid work worldwide have been radically restructured over the last fifty years at the same time as a sexual division of labor has remained. She focuses on the feminization of employment, informalization, and labor migration to demonstrate how the gender dynamics of labor markets and household arrangements have been restructured and highlighting the complexity of these processes.

Overall this section shows us how, although an often missing dimension, the insights generated by gendered political economy can enhance and improve our analyses of concepts such as intersectionality, the family, citizenship, and rights and can add new ones to make a significant contribution to the study of gender and politics. (p. 262)