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date: 02 December 2022

Gender and the Global Political Economyfree

Gender and the Global Political Economyfree

  • Penny GriffinPenny GriffinSchool of Social Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney


Feminist and gendered interventions in the discipline of international political economy (IPE) traces the constitutive and causal role that gender plays in the diverse forms, functions, and impacts of the global political economy (GPE). There are subtle distinctions between “feminist” and “gendered” political economy. The term “feminist IPE” is assigned only to those scholars who identify directly with feminism and label themselves feminist. “Gendered IPE” includes feminist IPE, but also incorporates those analyses not necessarily centered on women’s work, their practices, and their experiences. Whether understood empirically or analytically, increased references to “gender” in IPE invariably resulted from the extensive, varied, and challenging feminist theorizing that had made visible the neglect of sex and gender in IPE. Indeed, gendered IPE scholarship is dedicated to transforming knowledge through committed gender analysis of the global political economy, deploying “gender” as a central organizing principle in social, cultural, political, and economic life. A relatively recent theoretical turn in gendered political economy thoroughly highlights the problems involved when gender is entirely associated with the body as a mark of human identity. Contemporary gendered IPE covers the variety of ways in which analysis of a person’s sex is simply not enough to describe their experiences. Indeed, ongoing feminist and gendered IPE concerns generally focus on the marginalization of gender analysis in IPE. Meanwhile, promising avenues in gendered IPE include gender and sexuality in IPE, as well as gender and the “Illicit International Political Economy” (IIPE).


  • Politics and Sexuality and Gender


Gendered global political economy scholarship teaches us that “gender” is everywhere and that no “economic” value is socially untied, or “gender neutral.” Feminist and gendered interventions in the discipline of international political economy (IPE) have sought to build different kinds of knowledge about, but also beyond, what is considered conventionally acceptable in IPE scholarship. Showcasing interdisciplinary and various approaches and methods, they trace the constitutive (and also causal) role that gender plays in the diverse forms, functions, and impacts of the global political economy (GPE), while engaging with issues of terminology and methodology as much as economic analysis. An increasing commitment in studies of the GPE to gender analysis as a crucial means of analyzing and understanding all socioeconomic processes has thus thoroughly broadened gender’s analytical reach, while also encouraging much-needed consideration of women and men’s lived experiences of economic processes.

Gendered IPE (whether articulated as explicitly feminist or not) displays a vibrancy and intellectual commitment to diverse understandings and knowledges that make it an essential part of any inquiry into global politics. Gender analyses are most clearly “marked” in/from the “community” of critical IPE scholarship through their commitment to gender not just as a concern but as the key concern in IPE, even though it is often this alone that distinguishes them (Griffin 2007a:719). Such analyses are invariably leading to an enlarged and more complex sense of human identity formation and are expanding how “gender” itself is conceived of (Griffin 2007a:734). Gendered IPE scholarship shows just how much “traditional” IPE issues (such as debt management, export processing zones, divisions of labor, globalization, and the (many) forms of resistance to globalization) are, as Whitworth articulates, “informed by assumptions around gender” (2006:96). Appreciation that the GPE is peopled by, and only functions through, the human bodies that have created it is integral to understanding the socioeconomic processes through which the global political economy functions. Gender analysis simply exposes the stories, assumptions, and practices attached to human bodies, making visible the gendered practices that conventional political economy has sought to conceal.

Feminism(s) and the Gendered Political Economy

While the distinction may, at first glance, seem pedantic, there are subtle differences that make the distinctions between “feminist” and “gendered” political economy worth highlighting. This is not to suggest that gender scholarship in IPE is, or should be, concerned with “evacuating feminism from gender” (Zalewski 2003:293), since most gender IPE scholars are aware of the feminist heritage of much of their work and seek actively to avoid reproducing “very meager stories about women-men-gender-and-sex” (Zalewski 2003:293). For the purposes of this essay, the term “feminist IPE” is apportioned only to those scholars who identify directly with feminism and label themselves feminist. “Gendered IPE” certainly includes feminist IPE (where feminists choose to be included), but also incorporates those analyses that deploy gender in ways that dislocate it from the specificity of the female body, as analysis not necessarily centered on women’s work, their practices, and their experiences.

Feminist scholarship in IPE embodies “a long and distinguished history” and has been developing a “theoretical as well as an empirical and policy-orientated body of literature” over some time now (Hoskyns and Rai 2007:298–9). Seeking to “resurrect an emancipatory project within the theory and practice of modernity” (Steans 1999:118), the centrality in avowedly feminist scholarship is (or should be) to “women” (see, e.g., Tickner 1992; Waylen 1997; Steans 1999). While all those involved in gendering the global political economy share a commitment in their analyses to the category of “gender,” there proliferates a variety of theoretical and empirical orientations to the study of gender that reflect, as Peterson articulates, a truly wide range of positions on how to approach and study “gender” itself (2005:499).

Peterson makes a useful distinction between two general gendered approaches in/to IPE: an “empirical gender” approach foregrounds how men and women (“gender” understood empirically) are differently affected by, and differently affect, political economy; an “analytical gender” approach understands gender, on the other hand, as a “meaning system” within which masculinity and femininity produce and are produced by political economy (Peterson 2005). Feminist IPE (as for feminist analyses broadly) deploy both approaches. So too do gender analyses that are not overtly “feminist,” or that conceive of themselves as explicitly “nonfeminist” (see, e.g., Carpenter 2002, 2003). Whether understood empirically and/or analytically, however, increased references to “gender” in IPE are invariably a result of the extensive, varied, and challenging feminist theorizing that has made visible the neglect of sex and gender in IPE.

Early Feminist IPE Scholarship

Feminist IPE began (historically, and as many feminist interventions in numerous disciplines have done) by “exposing the omission of actual women and their activities, while also documenting how women and feminized activities are represented as inferior to male-as-norm (androcentric) criteria” (Peterson 2005:500–1). Positivist research philosophies have, as Tickner articulates, long held “the highest prestige” in the discipline of IR and feminist interventions came late to a field dominated by mainstream positivism, such that feminist scholarship did not really enter IR until the late 1980s (Tickner 2001:10; see also Pettman 1996:vii–x). IPE, as a disciplinary field influenced (far more than IR) by economics, historical sociology, and development studies, underwent feminist evaluations a little earlier, with feminism making a growing mark on economic analysis from the 1970s. Thus, some time before “first generation” IR feminists had begun “to challenge the masculinist biases of the core assumptions and concepts of the field [of IR]” (Tickner 2005:2178), a good deal of feminist research had already inquired into the gendered dynamics of the globalization of capital (Bergeron 2001:990).

Gender’s earlier appearance in IPE than in IR stems largely from the very broad heritage of IPE scholarship. As an academic field, IPE is undoubtedly “schizoid” in nature, deriving, as Underhill explains, in large part from the “wide variety of backgrounds” from which IPE scholars hail, as IR “dissenters,” political and social scientists, development scholars, economists, and so on (Underhill 2003:805–6). The emergence of global political economy, as a “specialist area of study,” can thus be viewed, in part, “as an expression of discontent,” particularly with the tendency of mainstream IR to “separate the ‘economic’ and the ‘political’ realms of human activity, rather than elucidate their interconnection” (Steans 1999:114). Given IPE’s diversity, it has never been very clear where exactly the emphasis in IPE lies: whether IPE is the politics of economics, or the economics of politics (Griffin 2007a:721). As “economics,” IPE displays a penchant for abstract econometricism, perpetuating the assumed “rationality” and “gender neutrality” of economic discourse and reproducing only “what men define as economics” (Peterson 2005:501). As “politics,” however, IPE has embraced a plurality of political methodologies and is increasingly conscious that its stories are stories like any others, propelled by their own modes of selection, metaphor, and illustration.

Gender’s Origins in IPE (1): Feminist Economics and Marxist Political Economy

In the context of IPE’s schizophrenia, the development of gender analysis in political economy scholarship is difficult to trace. O’Brien and Williams suggest that research on gender has developed in “two broad streams” (2007:269). The first “stream” sees gender research developing “within the context of the conversation between IR theory and feminist scholars” and “in the internal debates in IPE as it strives to develop its identity” (O’Brien and Williams 2007:269). The second “stream,” on the other hand, developed from feminist scholarship in the social sciences, particularly in economics and development studies (O’Brien and Williams 2007:269; see also Waylen 2006:205). Although gender’s true origins are probably less tidy and more eclectic than the “two streams” would suggest, the end result is essentially the same: a body of gendered IPE research embodying an enormous diversity of origins, methodology, epistemology, and political strategy, such that a singular “gendered IPE” vision is unlikely.

Using gender as an analytical category, feminist economists have shown that unquestioned and unexamined masculinist values are deeply embedded in the theoretical and empirical aspects of economics.

(Barker 2005:2189)

Feminist economics constitutes “a knowledge project that works toward a feminist transformation of economics” (Barker 2005:2189). The intellectual groundwork for contemporary feminist economics, Barker suggests, was established by scholars working from three different economics schools: neoclassical economics, institutionalist economics, and also Marxist political economy (2005:2191–2). A wealth of scholarship in the Marxist-feminist tradition, argues Steans, has developed “a political economy approach to gender relations” that views gender as “essentially a form of social inequality,” rooted in the “‘privatization’ of women’s productive and reproductive labor power and the control of women’s sexuality” (Steans 1999:115). Marxist feminists sought, in particular, to show how women faced oppressions in the political economy regardless of their class status. They highlighted the degree to which critical theorists neglected important aspects of social and political relations and emphasized the sociopolitical institutionalization of gendered power differences and their impact on women (Steans 1999:114). “Feminist critical theory,” which, suggests Steans, developed from this Marxist tradition, thus analyzes gender relations through examination of the structures and social practices that support and perpetuate particular gender relations (Steans 1999). Importantly, such scholarship “does not concentrate so much upon what women do socially, still less on what women are biologically, but rather on the meanings which their actions acquire through social interactions” (emphasis in original, Steans 1999:115).

Marxist-inspired feminist scholars have thus sought to fashion feminist analyses that show how the accumulation of capital is riddled with, but also dependent on, gendered divisions and inequities. Pun Ngai, for example, speaks to Marxist scholarship to show how a more complete analysis of the accumulation of capital can be fashioned through consideration of capitalist production and consumption as intrinsically reliant on “a sexual discourse as the basis of the system of differentiation and hierarchy” (Ngai 2005:15). Taking “critical IPE” analysis one step further, Ngai reveals capitalist accumulation to be dependent, not just on a generalizably malleable proletariat, but an explicitly gendered “industrial reserve army,” where Chinese workers are recruited not only because they are rural migrants, but because they are females, “imagined relative to males to be easier to regulate and control” (Ngai 2005:15). The “production machine” in China, she argues, “has no interest in a general body.” Rather, “it is interested only in a particular body, a feminine body, that is imagined as more obedient, tolerant, and conforming to the factory machine” (Ngai 2005:15).

Similarly, Morgan et al. deploy Marxist tools to enhance the sociology of work, revealing previous exclusions “by bringing the human subject back into the analysis of work” (2005:30). “All work,” they argue, “is gendered and all work is embodied.” Gender cannot be simply added on to other kinds of analysis “as an interesting but fairly marginal addition,” but constitutes, or should constitute, “an integral part of the analysis” (Morgan et al. 2005:19). Gender analysis, when applied to “industrial sociology” and the “sociology” of work, both draws on existing, Marxian analyses of the meaning and alienation of work in different times and in different places, but extends this analysis to view gender, and processes of gendered embodiment in modern life and work, as constitutive of human identity and meaning.

Most, if not all, feminist economists deploy an empiricist methodology (Barker 2005:2192), an application of research strategy based on the observation of experience. This involves a research design that seeks to understand the material dimensions of women’s lives, rather than attempting to understand discursively constructed systems of meaning and value. As Barker articulates, “understanding the socioeconomic aspects of life is the task for feminist economics.” It is not that a focus on “words” (including “issues such as difference, subjectivity, and representation”) is wrong, but that feminist economists work effectively only when their analysis is linked to materially verifiable and empirical socioeconomic reality (Barker 2005:2192–3). Ideas alone simply cannot work for economists, feminist or otherwise. Thus, gendered IPE is not quite entirely captured by feminist economics, since many gender scholars in IPE do focus solely on words, meanings, and representation.

It is also the case that critical IPE scholarship, although inspirational to many gendered analyses, is ultimately inadequate for the widest purposes of gendered scholarship. Although the similarities between critical and gendered IPE approaches that sought to draw attention to “the intimate connections between the globalization of economic activity, globalized social relations and new forms of politics” are certainly clear (Steans 1999:114), there is also an argument to be made that critical and mainstream IPE share enough characteristics to render “critical IPE” more sympathetic to mainstream IPE than to gendered scholarship. In her assertion of the need for more honest and intuitive theorizing about the global political economy, Lily Ling argues that “an underlying economism” permeates the mainstream-critical IPE divide, rendering the liberal and critical sectors of IPE essentially more similar than dissimilar. “Feminists alone,” she argues, “differ by directly linking the macro-structural with the micro-personal, the objective with the subjective, and interest with passion” (Ling 2000:242). There remains a distinct lack in otherwise critical IPE that is explained only by gender’s absence, a particular and ongoing cause of concern for much feminist and gendered IPE scholarship (see, e.g., Ling 2000; Griffin 2007a).

Gender’s Origins in IPE (2): “Gender and Development” Scholarship

A burgeoning gender and development literature has proved particularly inspirational to feminist and gender analyses. Feminist work in and on development emerged in response to the continued, and willful, blindness of development theory and practice to the category of “woman.” Conventional “development” had remained, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, dogmatically blind to the plight of Third World women, such that women (considered wives and mothers, not agents for change) were left out of the plans and policies of development experts. Women were, effectively, invisible.

Following the publication of Ester Boserup’s highly influential Women’s Role in Economic Development (1970), which sought to delineate on a global level the sexual division of labor that existed in agrarian economies, the term “women in development” (WID) came into popular usage in development literatures. In essence, WID subscribes to the assumptions of modernization theory and in this sense is closest to a liberal feminist, “add women and stir” approach to the global political economy, or what Naila Kabeer refers to as “treating cancer with bandaid” (Kabeer 1994:11). WID advocates and practitioners, “because their objective is to influence the development community, tend not to raise basic theoretical issues but rather to seek to adjust current development practices to include women” (Tinker, quoted in Kabeer 1994:12). Generally stressing Western values, WID programs targeted individuals (not larger economic, political, and interpersonal sources and relations of power) as the catalysts for social change (Visvanathan, quoted in Ndimande 2006:1), asking that women (as workers and producers) be included in economic systems, through necessary legal and administrative changes. WID thus focused almost exclusively on the productive aspects of women’s work, ignoring or minimizing the reproductive aspects of women’s lives (Ndimande 2006:1).

WID perspectives thus found themselves heavily criticized for a neglect of theories of race or class roles and a failure properly to address “the systemic nature of gender inequality and its connection with other forms of inequality” (Kabeer 1994:38). They did, however, present important challenges to universal and biological generalizations concerning the division of labor, and also provided an excellent source (much used by theoreticians and practitioners alike) of accurate data on household structures and the nature of women’s work in the Third World. WID perspectives thus find an important echo in contemporary gendered IPE scholarship. Hoskyns and Rai, for example, present an imposing investigation of the perpetuation and effects of the exclusion of the measurement of women’s unpaid labor (a key part of the social reproduction that keeps so-called formal economy healthy, functioning, and dynamic) in national systems of accounts, such as the United Nations System of Nation Accounts (SNA) (Hoskyns and Rai 2007:297). More attuned to the differences between and among “women,” and certainly committed (in a way that WID analyses were not) to understanding the broad, structural, and various ways in which the global political economy actually works, Hoskyns and Rai present a compelling case for viewing the economy as much “more than just the market,” highlighting the very real damage that is being done to crucial sources of social reproduction (that is, as the authors suggest, “the glue that keeps households and societies together and active”) through the systematic undervaluing of women’s unpaid work (Hoskyns and Rai 2007:297–315).

Contemporary Gendered IPE Scholarship

Feminist work has shown us that what counts as central is not natural, neutral or objective, but is rather that which is selected by the present mainstream.

(Zalewski 2007:302)

[G]ender deserves central attention in any discussion of economic and social development. No one would deny the major significance of demographic change for development and policymaking, including its impact on the gender division of labor, household composition, gender relations, and the changing structure of the labor force […] [To ignore gender is] to cripple our understanding of the dynamics of development and social change.

(Benería 2003a:10)

Although contemporary gendered IPE scholarship can be as empiricist as feminist economics, it can also be entirely poststructural, focused more clearly on the hierarchical implications of discursive gender than on the empirics of gender-as-women’s-experiences. Such IPE (see, e.g., Peterson 2002, 2005, 2007; Griffin 2007b, 2009) is more concerned with providing a “big picture” overview of the gendered political economy. This is not to say that the creation of knowledges about and for women’s lived experiences are not important, it is simply that this form of gender scholarship embodies a different set of analytical tools in examining the global political economy.

As Peterson suggests, such scholarship is less about critique than the reconstruction of theory, which means also that we need engage with gender as a “governing code” in the GPE, shaping how we think, what we presume to know, “and how such knowledge claims are legitimated” (Peterson 2005:502). This might, for example, equate to analysis of the ways in which dominant discourses of “globalization” deploy narratives of the “masculinized Western Self” and the “backward, irrational Native Other” to legitimate certain claims to authority and common sense (see, e.g., Ling 2000). Or, it might involve consideration of how neoliberal globalization is rendering the economies of conflict, war, and illicit trade exceptionally damaging to certain people (see Peterson 2008).

As Benería articulates, a “theoretical shift” toward “the use of gender as a central category of analysis” has provided a key impetus in the development of new theoretical formulations, implying “a rejection of essentialism in feminist work” and destabilizing “previously assumed connections between structure and the socioeconomic conditions affecting men and women” (Benería 2003a:40). Such a shift is crucial in understanding contemporary gendered political economy scholarship, which draws heavily on postpositivist intellectual currents. Even economics itself (perhaps one of the social science’s most new theory resistant disciplines) has experienced the impact of poststructural critiques of positivist grand theory and apparently “stable” categories of analysis, such that economists have questioned the rhetoric of economics and the meanings created therein. The economist, wrote McCloskey, “can read the most unreadable and compressed production of his [sic] fellows,” only if “they participate in the same community of speech” (McCloskey 1990:19). Economics is, McCloskey suggests, “scientifically autistic” (quoted in Benería 2003a:24), unable to countenance the sorts of epistemological questions that would lead its proponents actually to ask about all the meanings of their work (not just the economic ones), which also helps to protect economics’ modernist discourse, with its “excessive faith in the power of mathematics and quantitative methods” (Benería 2003a:41).

Gender, Sex, and Bodies in the Global Political Economy

Gendered IPE scholarship is invariably dedicated to transforming knowledge through committed gender analysis of the global political economy, deploying “gender” as a central organizing principle in social, cultural, political, and economic life. A relatively recent, but important, theoretical turn in gendered political economy has, instead of assuming that the body has “a gender,” to highlight thoroughly the problems involved when gender is associated entirely with the body as a mark of human identity (male/female). Although some gender analyses maintain a commitment to “gender inequalities” as broadly disaggregatable according to sex, contemporary gendered IPE scholarship is broader (and more complex) than simple readings of biological sex versus socially conditioned gender and covers the variety of ways in which analysis of a person’s sex is simply not enough to describe their experiences.

Refusing the all too frequent equation of gender with women alone, recent analyses of gender in the global political economy have argued that the repeated trivialization of gender in economic analysis/es results from a failure to see the power that gender brings to our everyday understandings, and especially to our understandings of political and economic common sense (Griffin 2009:16). Gender, here, is not something people “have,” nor is it something people “are” (see, e.g., Bedford 2005; Morgan et al. 2005; Griffin 2007a, 2007b, 2009). The body is not assumed to possess a gender identity, reflective of some kind of inner biological “core”; rather, gender is considered a composite part of the relations of power that drive systems of economic development and growth, global financial flows, and systems of manufacturing and production.

As Peterson points out, making women empirically visible in the global political economy has been “an indispensable project,” and one that exposes the androcentricity, even overt sexism, of existing structures and paradigms, raising important questions of the “masculinity” of concepts such as “reason,” “economic man,” “breadwinner,” and the “public sphere” (emphasis in original, Peterson 2005:501–2). As she also points out, simply “adding” women to structures constituted as masculine does not tackle the gendered underpinnings of reigning paradigms. To analyze gender instead as a “governing code” is to give gendered political economy a different vocabulary with which to speak, one that understands the privileging of gendered values, embodied in assumptions about masculinity and femininity (Griffin 2007a:731). As a code (or multiple codes, depending on social and cultural location) governing the production and reproduction of socioeconomic relations, gender is discernible only in the effects that it produces and constitutes the social norms on which depends, as Butler has articulated, the viability of our individual personhood (Butler 2004:2). The discourses that create the “natural group” that possesses “women” and “men” are a powerful source of compulsion and prohibition, forcing bodies and minds “to correspond, feature by feature, with the idea of nature that has been established for us” (Wittig 1997:220–6).

Although recognizing that gender is certainly a substantial part of what it means to be “human,” more recent gendered political economy analysis avoids the suggestion that people everywhere labor under the same signifying codes, cultural articulations, or life experiences. Many of us are, for example (particularly, but not only, in the global North), deeply embedded in discourses dependent on sociobiological explanations of gender, and, as such, find it difficult to consider that man and masculine might signify a female body just as easily as a male one, or woman and feminine a male body just as easily as a female one (Griffin 2007b:224–5). We have tended to believe that we have some clarity about “sex,” that it marks something about the human body and expresses an identity or constitutes some kind of “act.” One result, in Western discourse at least, has been an overwhelming binarity that unifies the characterizations of each “sex” or “gender” group, such that we might assume that there exists one set of traits for characterizing men and one for women, and so on (Griffin 2007b).

This is not to argue, however, that feminist IPE assumes a unity to the categories “women” and “men,” although some feminist IPE work may well do this. The turn toward “gender” as nonbiological has already been embraced by many feminists, and most gender scholars profess a debt to feminist interventions for properly exposing the omission of any gender consideration from mainstream scholarship. It is worth noting that such research recognizes the importance of situating the category of “woman” in socioeconomic and cultural terms, without risking the argument that all women share in the same forms of oppression. It is possible, as feminist IPE analyses have shown (see, e.g., Pettman 1996; Chin 1998; Prügl 1999; Wichterich 2000; Peterson 2002, 2005, 2007; Benería 2003a, 2003b; Elias 2004, 2005; Ngai 2005), to retain the category of “woman” as a valuable and essential tool in analyzing the global political economy, while employing gender in a broader sense to signal the (global and local) processes of (re)production that prioritize certain, human, identities (Griffin 2007a:729).

This shift in approach, embodying a care for women’s lives but a focus on gender as pivotal to the structures of the global political economy, is a singular strength to contemporary gendered political economy analyses. Feminist scholars have increasingly sensitized themselves to the difficulties of universalizing the category of “woman,” and many have committed themselves to theorizing differences among women (and men) far more seriously. As Benería argues, “women’s issues” cannot be separated from the “socioeconomic and cultural contexts in which they are immersed” (Benería 2003a:ix). Authors such as Benería (see also Pettman 1996; Chin 1998; Prügl 1999; Wichterich 2000; Elias 2004, 2008; Morgan et al. 2005; Ngai 2005) highlight the growth of informalized and precarious jobs appearing primarily in developing countries, and the ways in which this affects different social sectors in specific ways. Benería draws her articulation of gender from Scott’s work, as a “constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes,” and asks simply that future research remain open to questioning apparently “stable” categories of analysis, and opening up “new questions about the most effective ways of theorizing and doing research” (Benería 2003a:40–1). Her critique of the hegemony of neoliberal discourse and policies, marketization, and “flexible capitalism” goes to the heart of many of IPE’s current preoccupations, allowing her scholarship room for considerable depth on subjects such as the changing shape of capital and labor relations, employment activities, processes of informalization and decentralization, differing cultures of work, industrial displacement, and the polarizing effects of skilled/unskilled definitions of labor. In particular, Benería emphasizes the contradictory effects of globalization and the reorganization of the work process by highlighting the unevenness of the changes experienced by women, such as reduced gender gaps in education across countries, women’s increased participation in managerial and professional occupations, differing evidence on wage gaps between men and women, and women’s increased participation in informalized employment, with difficult working conditions, low pay, long hours, and little legal support and/or opportunities for redress.

Ongoing Feminist and Gendered IPE Concerns: The Marginalization of Gender Analysis in IPE

IPE, sometimes considered a field of social science enquiry independent of international relations (see, e.g., Overbeek 2000; Underhill 2003) and sometimes a subdiscipline of international relations (see, e.g., Kubálková 2000; Jacobsen 2003), has often been praised for being an “open and unenclosed corner” of academic inquiry, and one that has been consistently gaining in appeal and popularity over the last 20 or so years (O’Brien 2000:89). It remains overwhelmingly the case, however, that most nongender IPE continues to display enormous reluctance to speak explicitly in gender terms. Since, as Jacobsen argues, “struggles about meaning are,” from a critical theory perspective, “struggles about power” (Jacobsen 2003:48), gender’s invisibility in even the most otherwise critical work suggests a significant imbalance in the wielding of disciplinary power in IPE.

Mainstream and Critical IPE and the Exclusion of Gender Analysis

A pertinent, and ongoing, concern for gendered IPE scholarship has been the extent to which “mainstream” and, to a slightly lesser extent, “critical” IPE have remained blind to gender analysis as a valid means of studying the processes and practices of the GPE. “Critical IPE” (that is, IPE scholarship inspired and informed by historical materialist inquiry and offering structuralist, but also transformative, critiques of the GPE) has shown how economic discourses and their study are very far from being value “neutral,” as more positivist IPE would have it. Unfortunately, critical IPE has rarely characterized this lack of neutrality as gender specific. As Whitworth argues, although some critical scholars have tried to “interject attention to women or to gender,” they have tended to do so in a tokenistic and largely unintegrated effort, while other scholars “have offered up baffling accounts of feminism that only serve to underlie the extent to which [feminist] literature remains almost entirely unread and unheard by too many scholars within both IR and IPE” (Whitworth 2006:89).

In 1997, Georgina Waylen wrote that the increasingly numerous appearances of gender and feminist analyses in IPE represented something of a general shift in the discipline toward a “new political economy” and also (from a “young and fast developing field”) provided the “embryo of a feminist political economy” (Waylen 1997:205). Nine years later, Waylen found sufficient cause to write that not only was it proving “very difficult to articulate [feminist] concerns within mainstream IPE” (Waylen 2006:145), but “troubled engagements” continued still between feminist and critical IPE (Waylen 2006:164). Gender in IPE has thus become both increasingly visible as a category of analysis, but also consistently trivialized in the minds of mainstream and more critical IPE scholars, as a category pertaining only to the lives of women, women’s labor rights, and women’s social movements (Griffin 2007a:720).

Mainstream studies of IPE draw largely from classical liberal approaches to economic life, tending to center the Western “free market” as both central to the organization of social life and inherently beneficial (Elias 2004:8). These studies have focused primarily on abstract (that is, unembodied) forces, processes, and practices. For mainstream IPE, actors are both rational and individualistic, and social life (if it is indeed talked about as “social”) is organized entirely around the distributive mechanism of the free market. This renders mainstream IPE in many ways highly economistic, since it is dependent on the models and theoretical underpinnings of economics, which are drawn according to measurable and knowable quantifiers, such as income, time, calculating capacities, resources, and opportunities (Griffin 2007a:722). Where mainstream IPE is informed by politics, it tends to choose rational choice theories of political action and individual behavior. Debates thus form around, for example, extending analysis of individual motivations beyond so-called narrow assumptions of self-interest, while maintaining an overarching commitment to the rationality, consistency, and forward-looking and utility-maximizing behavior of individuals (see, e.g., Becker 1993:385–6).

Mainstream IPE is also predominantly state centric. Where the relevance of nonstate actors is discussed, the “ontological primacy” of the state is never in question (Overbeek 2000:168–9). Instead, the debate is fashioned around neorealist (neomercantilist) and pluralist (neoliberal) approaches (Overbeek 2000). Liberal principles (concerning, for example, the proper extent of state intervention, or the prerequisite of marketization for economic growth, where “progress” tends to be read as the acquired technological and social skills for increasing GDP) predominate. “Fringe frameworks” are of interest to the mainstream “only to the degree that one converts these analytical modes into positivist and measurable terms” and thus deems them “scientific” (Jacobsen 2003:39). A glance through political economy core texts and student-aimed “handbooks” (e.g., Ravenhill 2004; Balaam and Veseth 2008; Blyth 2009) suggests that many of the core concerns of IPE rest with liberal, mainstream accounts of the politics of economic growth, trade liberalization, foreign direct investment, the size of the public sector, debt crises, monetary policy, and economic freedom and choice. Where these accounts diverge from a mainstream, liberal approach, they invariably avoid discussing the social constitution of political economy in gender terms. As such, humanity’s social existence essentially holds no meaning beyond abstract organizing concepts such as the state, the market, and the rational consumer-agent, with gender most noticeable by its absence.

Feminism’s Discontents?

As Mohanty writes, 20 years ago a very vibrant, transnational women’s movement existed. “With the increasing privatization and corporatization of public life, it has become much harder to discern such a women’s movement from the United States” (Mohanty 2002:499–500). The same might feasibly also be claimed of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and other “Western” societies. The growing conservatism of women’s movements in the US, claims Mohanty, has resulted in the more radical, antiracist forms of feminist activism occurring outside the rubric of such movements (Mohanty 2002:500). This loss of radical feminist activism in the West, while not resulting in any apparent dearth of written work on gender in the global political economy, does suggest problems with Western feminism that remain unresolved and that threaten to exacerbate what some have identified as “a growing schism between feminist scholarship and gender analyses” (Zalewski 2007:303).

Frequently criticized, as Zalewski articulates, both from within and without (for example, for having apparently “forgotten” the injustices suffered by men, as per Adam Jones’ 1996 critique), feminist research has become in recent years rather vilified for its ineffectiveness, a state of affairs decidedly not helped by the Bush administration’s “appropriation of women’s rights talk on behalf of Afghan women” (Eisenstein 2004:1). Such vilifications ignore, however, the power of those “established norms that reproduce the discipline” (Zalewski 2007:303), and that effectively make it very difficult for all but the most established and known feminists to gain an audience with the mainstream. Criticisms also tend to ignore the ways in which feminist scholarship has informed the many and varied epistemological, methodological, and political insights of numerous other approaches to IPE, not all of them necessarily overtly feminist. Rupert and Solomon suggest, for example, that to challenge the social powers of capital is a task “significantly more complex than more fundamental versions of Marxism have been prepared to contemplate,” such that capitalist power over wage labor “has been historically articulated with gendered and raced forms of power” (emphasis in the original, Rupert and Solomon 2006:10). The implication of their otherwise nonfeminist analysis is that gender analysis is already an important component of IPE, a suggestion that owes a clear intellectual debt to feminist efforts to transform knowledge about and for the global political economy.

This is not to suggest that feminist and gendered IPE have not reproduced certain exclusions. The emergence of diverse men’s studies literatures has not been terribly well represented in IPE, nor until very recently has gendered IPE applied the insights of sexuality studies and queer theory. Although the construction of gendered identities (masculine, feminine, and otherwise) is discussed at some length in gendered IPE (see, e.g., Hooper 2001; Bedford 2005; Elias 2005; Griffin 2007b, 2009; Ngai 2005; Peterson 2005, 2008; Whitworth 2006), specifically feminist IPE has proven immensely resistant to losing the category “woman,” with feminists voicing particular concerns around reinscribing the centrality of men and masculinities.

Such concerns are not, of course, unreasonable. Feminism(s) have always been concerned with challenging sexual hierarchy and recentering the experiences of womanhood. It would be more than a little paradoxical for scholarship focused on recentering “woman” to effect a turnaround and seek to re-recenter “man,” the assumed presence of whom is already discernible in economic models, assumptions, and practices. Feminists have spared no small effort in documenting how the predication of human agency as rational and rent seeking results from historically contingent, exclusionary, and androcentric systems of gender relations, wherein possible, desirable, and “typical” economic arrangements are modeled on an ideal form of masculinity (see, e.g., Ferber and Nelson 1993, 2003; Elson 1996; Hooper 2001). They have analyzed the ways in which profitability crises encourage the kind of economic restructuring that cheapens production costs for global investors and producers but exacerbates the feminization of poverty, while relying on gendered ideologies of domesticity, flexibility, masculinity, femininity, and sexuality (see, e.g., Wichterich 2000).

It is important then, as Elias suggests, that a distinction be drawn between those gender analyses that import the methodologies and categories of analysis found in mainstream, liberal IPE (evincing an “add women and stir” approach) and those analyses that use gender as a “basic tool” and essential “lens” for understanding IPE (Elias 2004:28). In an appeasement to those feminists who oppose the move from talking about women to talking about gender, Elias proposes,

The distinction between liberal feminism that adds on women to existing accounts and a feminism based on a political economy of gender is not to suggest that “gender” is a more appropriate category of analysis in IPE than the category of “woman.”

(Elias 2004:33)

The point here is that a political economy of gender can ask “Where are the women?” in IPE, while simultaneously reformulating the ways in which we perceive the “global” and reprioritizing the position of “the particular, the local, the feminine, the ‘other’” (Elias 2004). This in turn creates a space in IPE for asserting the importance of the local and social constitution of global processes. The shift to “gender” does not have to mean that a gendered political economy must lose “women” as physically embodied in any sense, since the production of knowledge about women’s varying experiences with and assessments of different and powerful gendered hierarchies is crucial.

Gendered Exclusions and the Inaccuracy of Conventional IPE

As Hoskyns and Rai, among others, suggest, feminist political economy “has largely remained on the margins of mainstream economics and policy making” (2007:298–9). Despite the increased rhetorical recognition of gender in political economy, fundamental shifts in policy frameworks are simply not happening (Hoskyns and Rai 2007). “To imagine,” then, “gendered scholarship on international politics as more than IR’s ‘other’” remains a challenge not yet overcome (Zalewski 2007:302). Feminist and gendered IPE is undoubtedly a crucial component of IPE’s heterodoxy, sharing obvious affinities with critical IPE in terms of deconstructing the social divisions of labor essential to capitalist production. Most IPE (mainstream and critical) continues, however, not to mention gender, “except in passing,” nor does it engage “with any of the gender political economy debates and research” (Waylen 2006:145).

The concern for gender’s place in IR and IPE represents more than simply marginalization lament, however, since the exclusion of gender in mainstream and more critical IPE has crucial (and highly detrimental) practical effects. In particular, gender’s exclusion reinforces inaccurate theorizing about the political economy, perpetuating a vision of abstract, individualized actors unencumbered by social concerns and inequalities, the corollary of which is flawed (and potentially damaging) policy making practice, drawn from assumptions about how the world works bearing no reflection in people’s lived practices and experiences.

Feminist and gender analysts, since they sit at the fringes of IPE scholarship, “have every incentive to study the dominant discourse,” while the reverse “is rarely the case” (Eagleton, cited in Jacobsen 2003:39). Gender scholars thus frequently find themselves having to draw from officially “ungendered” (even if it is critical) scholarship to show how gender’s inclusion can make for better analysis. Benería, for example, explicitly uses Heilbroner and Milberg’s nongender critique of the disconnect in mainstream economics between theory and reality to show how feminism can enhance a nongender critique. Since her book is about how “a gender perspective can enrich our understanding of many areas of economics and international development” (Benería 2003a:xi), Benería seeks, within a framework explicitly centered on the human and social, to transform knowledge by assessing what the mainstream absents, denies, and suppresses. From her perspective, however, and perhaps unlike many historical materialist analyses, “capitalism is not the only underlying order to be concerned about” (Benería 2003a:15), and gender-related as opposed to capital-related hierarchies take center stage.

Although gender scholarship has, in IPE as in IR, “developed a confidence that enables [it] to move beyond the margins of the discipline to make a distinctive contribution to the study of things international” (Squires and Weldes 2007:185), and although contemporary feminist scholarship is certainly thriving, as long as a large proportion of IPE scholars are ignorant of the importance of gendered considerations in the global political economy, theory and practice will continue to be produced that is biased, exclusionary, and, in large parts, irrelevant. As such, feminists’ concerns present more than simply a care for their own readership, since they are heavily implicated in the wider project of formulating better theory and practice: the kind that produces, for example, more accurate analyses of intrahousehold labor and resource allocation, or that offers holistic measurements of human wellbeing, “development,” and “social capital” (Peterson 2005:501).

Gender scholars contribute pivotal work in showing how mainstream and critical IPE’s exclusions “are not accidental or coincidental but required for the analytical consistency of reigning paradigms” (emphasis in original, Peterson 2005:502). A focus on gender in the GPE is crucial but also unsettling, since it has the potential to expose the sexism and racism of dominant disciplines, discourses, and practices considered by many to be “value neutral” (Griffin 2009:16). Such a destabilizing enterprise is also a highly emotive one, liable to incite bafflement, defensiveness, and (sometimes) outright hostility, since to posit the “international” as gendered is to threaten many of the apparently stable foundations that have allowed conventional analysis to simplify, model, and explain the actions of the global political economy’s key actors (Griffin 2009). Since individuals, in conventional (that is, mainstream) economic and political analysis, are believed to be essentially similar, and their individual “tastes” exogenous to economic models, there is little room for categories of analysis that do not easily fit the economic mold, that cannot be easily measured, numbered, and quantified, that refuse simplification, and that cannot be instrumentalized.

Ignoring gender’s role as one of the most basic, fundamental systems of identification through which we understand the world ignores, however, the complex and different understandings that people hold about their environments, their abilities to survive and capacities to continue existing, how they organize themselves, their goals in life, and how they cope with their surroundings. Absence of gender analysis in political economy is particularly detrimental, since it further reifies the separation of macro-structural from micro-personal. Processes, practices, and structures in the global political economy function only because of the human labor, bodies, and energy that go into them (Griffin 2009). Understanding how social norms are reproduced means that we might better understand the processes and practices of global governance more broadly. Gender, sex, and race operate (in Western discourse at least) as powerful categorizations through which bodies are made intelligible and are widely evident (but all too frequently unremarked on) in sociopolitical discourses. Discourses of gender are undoubtedly specific to cultural and historical context and gender and sex norms are established cross-culturally in very different ways. The attributes most required in appropriate, active, but malleable and responsive market participants are not the abstract qualities of disembodied, raceless, sexless, and cultureless individuals, but are the result of years of social hierarchy and regulation. Policies that create little or no room, however, to consider the “medium and long term” social effects of economic policy making simply reproduce the disruptive and undesirable effects that a focus on economic production alone yields (including the breakdown of traditional family practices, the erosion of indigenous skills and expertise, environmental degradation, and so on). Such policy making, at least to the minds of most feminist and/or gender scholars, can never be effective.

Feminist and gender analyses have thus shown how functionally central gender relations are in and to economic practices otherwise considered abstract and “gender neutral.” They have, for example, revealed how the pursuit of capital accumulation in the twentieth century resulted in the exploitation of gendered and sexualized divisions of labor (Pettman 1996; Chin 1998; Prügl 1999); they have examined how globalization and global restructuring, and resistance to them, are intrinsically (not incidentally) gendered (Wichterich 2000; Marchand 2003; Peterson 2007); they have expanded thoroughly the conventions of economics to consider the powerful collaborations of productive, reproductive, and virtual economies that work to reproduce explicitly gendered and racialized inequalities, asymmetries, and contradictions in the neoliberal global order (Peterson 2002, 2007); they have shown how post–Washington Consensus development discourse constrains and commodifies women and men in “developing” countries (Bergeron 2003; Bedford 2005), or produces poor policy making from stereotypes of women as “victims,” “collateral damage,” or “unintended costs,” rather than agents (True 2003); they have exposed how fundamentally gendered are the practices actively reproduced by multinational companies (MNCs) in order to exploit and control low waged female labor (see Elias 2004, 2005).

Elias’s argument is particularly pertinent for its combination of the “public” and “private” of IPE (that is, the global political economy that is immediately visible or accessible, together with the often obscured and difficult to access bureaucratic processes and procedures of private companies). Like those who have highlighted the structural, constitutive nature of gendered relations of power in the GPE (e.g., Pettman 1996; Benería 2003a, 2003b; Whitworth 2006; Peterson 2002, 2007), Elias argues that, not only is gender apparent in the operations of the market, but “gendered inequalities and divisions are a fundamental feature of dominant models of export-led economic development” (Elias 2004:25). The contemporary MNC in Southeast Asia certainly benefits from gendered inequalities, but, moreover, it actively creates and perpetuates such inequalities, exploiting gendered divisions of labor “in order to mobilize a supply of low cost female labor to work as productive operatives in this labor intensive sector” (Elias 2004:1). Elias thus reveals the flaws in analysis that views the practices and processes of MNCs and foreign direct investment (FDI) as the “gender neutral” and “efficiency seeking” interaction of market forces, capable of transforming developing societies and their old fashioned, patriarchal gender relations. As MNCs seek to maintain their competitive positions through expanding production offshore, enabling them to benefit from low cost labor, they shore up and thus benefit from gender divisions and inequalities. Not only this, they also (re)construct gendered inequalities by targeting specific groups of women, as the author adeptly shows through her Malaysian case study example, recruiting less economically mobile women (who are viewed as more easily controlled), paying them much less than other workers (especially in the garment sector), and keeping them deunionized (Elias 2004:147–71).

Promising Avenues in Gendered IPE (1): Gender and Sexuality in IPE

As Squires and Weldes suggest, gender analyses are now “rarely monocausal,” embracing more readily than ever more complex understandings of power (McNay, summarized in Squires and Weldes 2007:186). Gender scholarship has thus shown how heavily “gender,” as one of the most fundamental, powerful, and prohibitive systems of identification through which we understand the world, weighs on our everyday understandings, knowledges, and behaviors.

Increasingly, as feminists and gender scholars have challenged the gendered categories that create what it means to be female or male, they have begun to question also the apparent stability of the category of “sex” (see, e.g., Butler 1990, 1993, 2004; Flax 1997; Carver 1998; Morgan et al. 2005; Ngai 2005; Griffin 2007b, 2009). Where “sex” might once have been understood as the fixed, biological “mark” of the human body and “gender” that results from the social conditioning of the mind, more recent analyses have problematized both the “biological” and the “social” as the (interconnected) effects of practices, processes, and structures of power and knowledge within certain (culturally specific) discourses. Gender is increasingly likely, now, to be read as an active process creating divisions of labor, power, and emotions, rather than something we have not or something we are (“what gender are you?”) (Griffin 2009:35).

As such, gender can be read as “performative” in the sense that the “reality” of gender in the global political economy is itself produced “as an effect of the performance” of gender (Butler 2004:218). Human (sexed) bodies assume cultural meaning (gender) according to the structures, or discourses, that result from particular, historical, and contingent relations of power (Griffin 2009:6). Within the global political economy, so-called economic discourses (such as the neoliberal governance discourses of leading development institutions or the corporate discourses of MNCs) thus represent very much more than the “economic” alone (Griffin 2009). To ignore the gendered and sexual configuration of the global political economy is, however, to ignore the sexual imperatives that constitute suitable marketable people, practices, and behaviors and thus to fail to understand their deleterious effects.

Understanding how bodies are regulated is crucial to understanding the processes and practices of the global political economy. Sex and gender “are not merely incidental to the formation and perpetuation” of dominant discourses in the global political economy, but are “absolutely central” to them (Griffin 2007b:220). Correspondingly, scholars have, for example, examined how global governance institutions reproduce heavily gendered and sexualized assumptions about who people are and what they do. Bedford presents a particularly cogent analysis of the ways in which the World Bank, the “world’s largest and most influential development institution,” seeks to “(re)forge normative arrangements of intimacy” for profitable ends (Bedford 2005:295). Others have shown how economic discourses reproduce certain gendered limits of possibility in the global political economy, structuring the meanings we apply to certain types of human endeavor, modes of production, and activity according to highly regulatory and disciplinary gendered hierarchies of appropriate and effective human bodies (see, e.g., Griffin 2007b, 2009).

Sexuality, suggests Bedford, “is often ignored in research on international political economy” (Bedford 2005:295). “Queer theory” and the study of sexuality(ies) in the global political economy afford, however, particularly interesting insights into the workings of the contemporary international system. As Jolly illustrates, gender and development policy and practice can be greatly enhanced “by embracing the challenges to conventional definitions of sex and gender that ‘queer theory’ poses” (Jolly 2000:78). To queer power is to seek to expose the limitations, unstable foundations, and power-laden assumptions of the “straight” political, psychological, cultural, and economic discourses that govern us (Griffin 2009:37). For queer approaches, heterosexuality is a social, political, and economic construct, not the pregiven basis for human interaction that it is made to seem, such that “truth,” “nature,” and “fact” are not (contrary to conventional wisdom) pregiven and universally valid but are discursive constructions. As such, queer approaches seek to subvert the apparent naturalness of the authorities, hierarchies, and discourses residing in the socioeconomic systems that govern us. Here, studies in heterosexist bias and the reproduction of heteronormativity have a significant intellectual heritage in historical analyses of the means and functions of mechanisms of social control over the body.

Bedford’s research on the World Bank presents an excellent example of the possibilities offered by scholarship that seeks to unsettle the reproduction of heteronormative power in the global political economy. Institutions, structures of understanding, and practical orientations that are heteronormative embody the privileging of normative heterosexuality and regulate the production of human identity according to a standard of reproductive heterosexuality (see Berlant and Warner’s outstanding 1998 essay). This is considered the only normal, natural, and/or appropriate standard for human relations. Western narratives of “others” rarely cover the possibility of “varied sexual identities and subjectivities” (Kleitz, quoted in Bedford 2005:296). Thus a (predominantly Western) belief in “naturalized heterosexuality” is reproduced in the West’s encounters with “others” (such as through restructuring efforts, aid, and financial programs), constraining and controlling the bodies of development policy making’s recipients through repressive moral discourses not their own and, in effect, rendering all that does not fit within the regulatory schema of these discourses (including human bodies) abnormal, unnatural, and/or deviant.

The “persistent refusal” of scholars to denaturalize heterosexuality remains, however, common both in development studies and feminist political economy (Bedford 2005:316). Such a refusal translates into the loss of key policy solutions and the perpetuation of existing “solutions” based on partial and ethnocentric readings of human bodies and what they do. In the case of the World Bank, Bedford argues, the solution to social reproduction policy dilemmas (that is, the tension between paid and unpaid work and the Bank’s efforts to make better “formal economy” workers of women while encouraging men to take up the slack of women’s lost “informal economy” contributions) has been “a profoundly privatizing conceptualization” that leads to “privatizing policy solutions fixated on micro-adjustments in loving partnerships” (Bedford 2005:316). Rather than apportioning value to women and men’s existing socially reproductive labor, such that Bank economists are able to consider social reproduction the core element of economic growth and development that it already is, Bank policy making instead only further reifies the formal/informal, public/private distinction that has so eroded the value assigned to socially reproductive labor.

Scholarship that focuses less on what bodies are than on what they are made to do shows how the creation and perpetuation of knowledge fit in with existing assumptions about what is normal, natural, and to be expected about “people.” Yet conventional and much critical IPE continues to retain a committed gender blind spot, assigning instead human agency to abstract objects (currencies “float,” goods and services “move,” money and labor “flow,” weapons “amass”, states “interconnect,” and MNCs “profit”), while studiously avoiding the possibility that these objects are socially produced, context specific, and embodied. An embodied approach to global politics (one that engages actively and carefully with the messier politics of everyday human social reproduction), on the other hand, has a variety of useful applications. In the first instance, this sort of scholarship furnishes a more accurate and holistic approach to the global political economy (through, for example, a more inclusive approach to the “global” or the “economic,” or through the use of a variety of measurements, methodologies, and analytical tools); it offers a nonabstract and practically applicable form of theorizing; it constitutes a more realistic means of accounting for the interaction of various causal factors, implications, and effects in global politics; and therefore it provides more intuitively realistic understandings of global exchange and economic discourses, their key mechanisms and global (and more localized) effects (Griffin 2009:1–2).

Scholarship that is more sensitive to the historical and cultural specificity of gendered regulations is intuitively also more attuned to the need for extensive “localized ethnographic and historical studies,” combined with “a more heightened and systematic awareness of global changes and developments” and the impact these have on the interplay between gender, bodies, work, and the global political economy (Morgan et al. 2005:13). In short, such scholarship is exactly what mainstream IPE really needs but continues to discount: analysis that is “both more sensitive to cultural variations and local differences and also more systematically aware of global trends and processes” (Morgan et al. 2005).

Promising Avenues in Gendered IPE (2): Gender and the “Illicit International Political Economy” (IIPE)

As feminists have articulated, the practices and processes of globalization in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries entail massive disjunctures and considerable unevenness, rendering a gendered analysis not only apposite but essential. As Wichterich argues, globalization means the “expansion of the neoliberal market economy to the remotest parts of individual countries and the most far-flung corners of the earth” (Wichterich 2000:vii). Globalization incorporates the sorts of changes (economic internationalization, deindustrialization, the feminization and informalization of labor) that affect all types of bodies, not just women’s, instigating not only highly invasive and destabilizing consequences for women (as per Wichterich’s analysis) but also crises in contemporary masculinities that “are wrought through multiple gendered struggles and rivalries” (Hooper 2001:4). International capital moves most effectively where actual human bodies are made most expendable, effectively making of men and women sources of comparative advantage susceptible to the dictates of (predominantly Western) sources of global power and privilege. Globalized “forms of cultural capitalism” no longer “have one geographical location” (Eisenstein 2004:2). Globalization thus “holds out the probability of world poverty worsening along with repressive measures against those who suffer most” (Eisenstein 2004:3). As a result we have, Eisenstein argues, found ourselves within a period of US imperialism (embodied in successive Iraqi interventions and the “war on terror”) embodied in an “extremist militarist phase of global yet territorial corporate building” (Eisenstein 2004:16).

A particular (and worrying) characteristic of globalized patterns of restructuring (including the increase in militarized globalization and the transnational financing of “new wars”) is the rise of the “illicit international political economy” (IIPE), where the acquisition, movement, and distribution of resources are key to understanding the “causes” of and capacities for sustaining conflict (Peterson 2008:13). The contemporary global political economy, Peterson argues, is characterized increasingly by so-called informal activities, ranging from “domestic/socially necessary and voluntary ‘work,’ where cash is rarely exchanged and ‘regulatory authorities’ are absent,” to “secondary, ‘shadow’ and ‘irregular’ activities, where some form of enterprise and payment is expected but regulation is either difficult to enforce or intentionally avoided/evaded” (Peterson 2008:11). Often neglected by IPE scholars, the expansion of illicit activities, such as trafficking in drugs, sex workers, migrants, “dirty money,” and black market goods, are increasingly gaining attention in IPE literatures (Peterson 2008:13–14).

War economies, and the erosion of centralized power, regulatory capacity, and public accountability through increasing informalization and transnational financial flows, deserve particular attention from gendered perspectives, not least for their capacity to create and sustain gendered violence and the ways in which individual survival and the social reproduction of families and households are made (im)possible. Thus, “what is to be done” becomes fairly obvious when one specifies how informal economies (“coping,” “combat,” and “criminal”) are gendered (Peterson 2008:18). Solutions thus include “taking social reproduction much more seriously, enabling greater autonomy for women, ensuring better security for all feminized ‘others’, including marginalized voices in peace negotiations, and decreasing the virulence of dominant masculinities” (Peterson 2008:18). Important “doings,” but also ones that many feminist and gender scholars (across IR, IPE, security studies, and development literatures) have already committed themselves to undertaking.


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Links to Digital Materials

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW). At, accessed March, 2009. A nongovernmental organization founded in 1988 and working to prevent sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially the sex trafficking of women and girls.

Humantraffick. At, accessed March 2009. A website bringing together government and NGOs in the East Asia and Pacific region. Contains country-specific information on trafficking initiatives (e.g., national laws and action plans and contact information on useful governmental agencies) and a description of NGO activities in different countries and their contact information.

International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE). At, accessed March, 2009. A group of/for scholars, policy professionals, students, advocates, and activists interested in empowering and improving the wellbeing of women and other underrepresented groups around the world.

International Labor Organization (ILO), Gender Equality at the Heart of Decent Work Campaign 2008–2009. At–2009/lang–en/index.htm, accessed March, 2009. A one-year campaign (organized by the ILO’s Bureau of Gender Equality), starting in June 2008 and ending in June 2009, to show how various issues may affect women and men differently in their access to rights, employment, social protection, and social dialogue.

Radical Statistics Group. At, accessed March, 2009. A British group of researchers and statisticians seeking to use statistics to support radical campaigns for progressive social change. Publishes the quarterly journal Radstats.

United Nations System of National Accounts (SNA). At http:/, accessed March, 2009. An integrated set of macroeconomic accounts, balance sheets, and tables based on internationally agreed concepts, definitions, classifications, and accounting rules, published jointly by the United Nations, the Commission of the European Communities, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the World Bank. Sets the international statistical standard for the measurement of the market economy.


With special thanks to the many (feminist and non-) scholars who have inspired and supported my work, including Spike Peterson, Laura Shepherd, Christina Rowley, Ana Jordan, Carole Spary, Rob Dover, Gennaro Gervasio, Judith Squires, Jutta Weldes, Juanita Elias, Graham Harrison, Wendy Larner, Andrew Wyatt, Terrell Carver, Marc Williams, and Michael Pusey.