Handbook on Gender in World Politics
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Handbook on Gender in World Politics

Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe

The Handbook on Gender in World Politics is an up-to-date, comprehensive, multi-disciplinary compendium of scholarship in gender studies. The text provides an indispensable reference guide for scholars and students interrogating gender issues in international and global contexts. Substantive areas covered include: statecraft, citizenship and the politics of belonging, international law and human rights, media and communications technologies, political economy, development, global governance and transnational visions of politics and solidarities.
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Chapter 46: Social reproduction – the Achilles heel of feminist transformation?

Shirin M. Rai and Catherine Hoskyns


Social reproduction was traditionally used as a descriptive category and set against production as a way of describing the known world and all the activities within it. Today the concept and the issues surrounding social reproduction have come to a new prominence as economic crisis and austerity cut into social provision and as feminist activists and scholars call for a rethink on issues of care, work and the social economy. At present, social reproduction is largely unrecognised and undervalued in economic terms, and it is for this reason that we have called it the Achilles heel which undermines progress towards feminist transformation. Before neo-classical economics put the emphasis almost exclusively on production, social reproduction was regarded as being at the centre of capital accumulation (Bakker and Silvey, 2008: 2). Thus production was seen as serving social reproduction rather than the other way about. Subsequently the emphasis on production has led to the positioning of social reproduction as a ‘second-level’ activity outside the market economy. As a result it is either undervalued or not valued at all and continues for the most part to be excluded from the economic calculus.

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