Women, Nature and the Social Construction of ‘Economic Man'

Citation:

Mellor, Mary. 1997. “Women, Nature and the Social Construction of ‘Economic Man’.” Ecological Economics 20 (2): 129–40.

Author: Mary Mellor

Abstract:

This paper argues that the social construction ‘economic man’ is the product of a hierarchical dualism in western society that has also created ‘rational man’ and ‘scientific man’. Women and the natural world form the subordinated half of these dualisms. Central to this paper is the claim that this dualism is not only a cultural/theoretical one, but also a material one. The social construction of ‘economic man’ is the product of a bifurcated knowledge system and a materially divided society. ‘Economic man’ reflects a society in which the embeddedness and embodiedness of humanity is hidden by the division of mind from body, and science/culture from the natural world. For this reason it is not possible to incorporate women and nature into the ‘economy’ through the commodity form by according them a value as price. It is argued that the economic system can only exist if women and nature remain externalised, as women form the bridge between an autonomous individualised ‘man’ and the biological/ecological underpinning of his existence. Central to this analysis is the distinction between social and natural/biological time. ‘Economic’ man lives in social time (clock time) while women are responsible for biological time. This is not because women are closer to nature/biology in an essential sense. Rather, this relationship is imposed upon them by a male-dominated society.

Topics: Economies, Ecological Economics, Environment, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Femininity/ies, Gendered Power Relations

Year: 1997

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