'Tapping’ Women for Post-Crisis Capitalism: Evidence from the 2012 World Development Report


Calkin, Sydney. 2015. “‘Tapping’ Women for Post-Crisis Capitalism: Evidence from the 2012 World Development Report.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 17 (4): 611–29.

Author: Sydney Calkin


Girls and women have become the public faces of development today, through the success of ‘Gender Equality as Smart Economics’ policy agendas and similar development narratives that mediate feminist claims through market logic. Women, these narratives assert, are more productive, responsible, and sustainable economic agents for future growth in the context of global financial crisis and therefore their empowerment is economically prudent. In this article, I provide a feminist reading of Foucault's critique of human capital to examine the discursive terrain of the ‘Smart Economics’ agenda and to understand the knowledge it produces about female bodies, subjectivities and agency. Through a discussion of the World Bank's 2012 World Development Report on gender equality, I argue that the current narratives of women's empowerment are premised on a series of gender essentialisms and their ‘activation’ through biopolitical interventions. The activation narrative of human capital appears, under feminist eyes, to reflect the notion that the supposedly intrinsic responsible and maternal nature of women can be harnessed to produce more profitable and sustainable development outcomes and, by extension, ‘rescue’ global capitalism. (Abstract from original)

Keywords: gender and development, women's empowerment, smart economics, World Bank, financial crisis

Topics: Development, International Financial Institutions

Year: 2015

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