Toward a Feminist Analytics of the Global Economy


Sassen, Saskia. 1996. “Toward a Feminist Analytics of the Global Economy.” Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 42 (1): 7–41.

Author: Saskia Sassen


Economic globalization has reconfigured fundamental properties of the nation-state, notably territoriality and sovereignty. There is an incipient unbundling of the exclusive territoriality we have long associated with the nation-state. The most strategic instantiation of this unbundling is probably the global city, which operates as a partly denationalized platform for global capital. Sovereignty is being unbundled by these economic and other noneconomic practices and new legal regimes. At the limit this means that the State is no longer the only site for sovereignty and the normativity that comes with it, and further, that the State is no longer the exclusive subject for international law. Other actors, from NGOs and minority populations to supranational organizations are increasingly emerging as subjects of international law and actors in international relations.

Developing a feminist analytics of the global economy today will require us to factor in these transformations if we are to go beyond a mere updating of the economic conditions of women and men in different countries. Much of the feminist scholarship on women and the economy and women and the law has taken the nation-state as a given or as the context within which to examine the issues at hand. And this is a major and necessary contribution. But now, in view of the distinct impacts that globalization is having on the systemic properties of the State--i.e., exclusive territoriality and sovereignty--it becomes important to subject these to critical examination.

The purpose here is to contribute to a feminist analytics that allows us to re-read and reconceptualize major features of today's global economy in a manner that captures strategic instantiations of gendering, and formal and operational openings that make women visible and can lead to greater presence in representation and participation. My effort, then, is to expand the analytic terrain within which we need to understand the global economy, to render visible what is now evicted from the account.

Here I specify two strategic research sites for an examination of the organizing dynamics of globalization and begin examining how gendering operates in order to develop a feminist reading. These two sites are derived from two major properties of the modern State, exclusive territoriality and sovereignty, and their unbundling under the impact of globalization. In the first section I discuss what I see as the strategic instantiations of gendering in the global economy. In the second and third sections, I focus on the unbundling of State territoriality through one very specific strategic research site, the global city, and try to lay out the implications for empirical and theoretical work on the question of women in the global economy. In the fourth section, I examine the unbundling of sovereignty in an age of globalization to understand the implications for the emergence of other actors in international relations and subjects of international law. While in many ways each of these represent distinct research and theorization efforts encased in very separate bodies of scholarship, both focus on crucial aspects of the broader process of globalization and its impact on the organization of the economy and of political power which we need to factor into a feminist analytics of the global economy.

Topics: Economies, Feminisms, Gender, Political Economies

Year: 1996

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