Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren
Drucilla K. Barker and Darla Schumm This chapter considers feminism, ethics and economics. In particular, it looks at the parallels between feminist economics and feminist ethics. Recent contributions to these fields question the notion of a universal moral agent and the ‘rational economic man’, underlining the need to include the voices of women and other marginalized groups and to consider needs and values contextually. The ethics of care has emerged as a central concern for both disciplines. Economic agents and moral agents The rational moral agent and the rational economic agent are both instances of the disembodied liberal subject in Enlightenment thought. Within economics, rationality is defined as the ability of individuals to order their preferences (their likes and dislikes) in a manner that is logically consistent and then, given the constraints of income and time, to make choices that maximize their self-interest. The idea that all actions are guided by self-interest has led feminist economists to call attention to the gendered nature of this abstract, disembodied subject, homo economicus. Within ethics rationality is defined as acting according to the tenets of a particular ethical system – deontological, utilitarian, Aristotelian or situational ethics. Like feminist economics, feminist ethics call into question previously held assumptions which claim a universal gender-neutral moral agent who is capable of articulating and asserting universal moral principles. While historically most ethicists have maintained that the universal moral agent is defined as any rational person free from the constraints of gender, race or social location, feminist ethicists have...
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