Gender Equality as Smart Economics? A Critique of the 2012 World Development Report


Roberts, Adrienne, and Susan Soederberg. 2012. “Gender Equality as Smart Economics: A Critique of the 2012 World Development Report.” Third World Quarterly 33 (5): 949–68.

Authors: Adrienne Roberts, Susan Soederberg


Business now plays an increasingly prominent role in development. While the implicit links between private actors and international development institutions have been widely debated, the explicit role of financial corporations in shaping official development policy has been less well documented. We employ a feminist Marxian analysis to examine the material and discursive landscape of the 2012 World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development. Its exclusive focus on gender equality as ‘smart economics’, and the central role accorded to leading financial corporations like Goldman Sachs in the formulation of the key World Bank recommendations enable us to explore the changing landscape of the neoliberal corporatisation of develop- ment. We argue, first, that the apolitical and ahistorical representation of gender and gender equality in the WDR serves to normalise spaces of informality and insecurity, thereby expunging neoliberal-led capitalist relations of exploitation and domination, which characterise the social context in which many women in the global South live. Second, the WDR represents the interest of corporations in transforming the formerly excluded segments of the South (women) into consumers and entrepreneurs. The WDR thus represents an attempt by the World Bank and its ‘partners’ to deepen and consolidate the fundamental values and tenets of capitalist interests.


Topics: Development, Economies, Economic Inequality, Poverty, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Financial Institutions, Multi-National Corporations, Political Economies

Year: 2012

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