Feminism as an Alternative to Neoliberal Development

In last week’s post I discussed the extent to which the cooperative movement is an adequate alternative to Neoliberal Development as it rises from the cracks of Neoliberalism.  This week I tap into a school of thought that is in every way post-capitalist: Critical Feminism.

Critical Feminism looks at the social structures of the world, and examines the groups in power that created these social structures. This analysis then looks at who is oppressed or marginalized in the created systems, and how they are oppressed within those systems.  Feminist Critical Theory looks at the roots of today’s global Neoliberalism system, and sees an economic system fabricated by a white, male-dominated, European society, and perpetuated through the colonization of the world by Europe.  Clearly, with white, male, European (Western) people in power, a large portion of the world remains disadvantaged in the system (Gibson-Graham, 1996).  This is where the feminist belief of intersectionality becomes important to Capitalism.  Intersectionality is the belief that the oppression of every marginalized population, is interconnected and cannot be looked at separately from one another.  This pertains to capitalism because the same group of people who created capitalism and spread it across the world are the same group that has set up oppressive institutions, like sexism, racism, and homophobia, that marginalize so many people within the global Neoliberal economic system. Therefore, a Critical Feminist solution to this marginalization, and the way to facilitate the broad social progress that is Development’s goal (in this case equality), would be to remove the oppressive group in power and everything associated with it, including Neoliberal Capitalist Development.

You can see why a Feminist alternative to Development is truly post-capitalist; tearing down every cultural, economic, political system that has caused oppression would literally mean everything changing.  Now before we go further, I want to state that this type of shift is possible.  Capitalism became globally hegemonic above all traditional economic systems, so there is no reason why this global hegemony can’t change again.  A feminist alternative to Development, using this logic, is not utopian or impossible.  It would, however, have to be careful that when replacing the world’s systems, that a different group doesn’t rise to power and create the same oppressive systems that the western patriarchy has.  This is why, of the feminist alternatives visible in the world, most are socialist, and put incredible value on the equality of all humans and creating structures that will not exploit labor.

Let us use the Pan-african movement as a feminist alternative to Neoliberal Development.  It looks to remove the borders created during Western colonization of the continent, and institutions of racism and sexism along with it. A popular African news source called NewAfrican explains the importance of learning from Europe’s structural mistakes, and creating systems of collaboration, not competition, to avoid the structures of economic domination that the continent knows all too well (Schneider, 2015).  A movement such as this seems to be such a cure to the Development Project we have witnessed up to date, with such a focus on cooperation and justice, that issues like inequality, oppression, and environmental degradation appear to be fully addressed, but the issue rises that the current global system provides many obstacles.

Clearly, it will be very difficult to replace an entire world system, especially with the group in power strengthening their positions with the policies they make within the system.  An example of this would be the recent Panama Papers Scandal, which revealed that many of the most powerful people in the world were evading taxes by storing money in Panama banks.  The largest problem of scandal isn’t that they were evading taxes in the countries they govern, but that a large amount of it was completely legal (Harrington, 2016).  This means that those in power are creating laws that are flimsy enough that the same people who enacted them can legally perform the same action that they made illegal to everyone else.  This is an obstacle for a feminist alternative to Neoliberal Development; the group in power will continue to extend the level of inequality between themselves and everyone else, making a structural change incredibly difficult.

An obstacle even larger for the feminist movement, however, is how inconsistent the meaning of feminism is around the world.  A popular American news source, Mic, explained the problem with much of the First World feminist movement, or ‘White Feminism,’ is that it ignores intersectionality, and therefore cannot fully comprehend the systems of oppression that affect the world (Zeilinger, 2015). White Feminism is the type of thinking that would find no problem attempting to find gender equality within the capitalist system, while never fully fixing the oppression of women, or anyone else.  For a feminist alternative to Neoliberal Development to occur, the first step would be a universal acknowledgment of intersectionality, and the consequential realization that a post-capitalist system change is the only solution.

Works Cited:

Gibson-Graham, J. K.. The End of Capitalism (as We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy. University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Harrington, Brooke. “Panama Papers Scandal.” The Atlantic. 6 Apr. 2016. Web.

Schneider, James. “Africa Must Learn from Europe’s Structural Failures.” New African Magazine. 16 Sept. 2015. Web.

Zeilinger, Julie. “The One Brutal Truth That Every White Feminist Needs to Hear.” Mic. 11 Sept. 2015. Web.

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