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Can feminist thought make economics more objective?

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  • Sandra Harding
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    Abstract

    Feminist research is often perceived to be less objective than conventional research on the grounds that the latter is value-neutral and the former is not. This essay shows that a major problem with the familiar standards for maximizing objectivity that permit such a conclusion is that they are too weak. They have no resources for detecting widespread cultural assumptions, values and interests, such as the androcentric ones to which feminist work draws attention. Good method works by identifying cultural values that differ between researchers or research communities. However, since androcentric values are often culture-wide, something more rigorous than only conventional good methods evidently are needed for researchers to be able to identify them.Thus feminist research does not introduce political assumptions, values and interests into research fields that are otherwise value-neutral; it identifies the ones that are already there. Rejecting the debilitating relativist stance usually seen as the only alternative to conventional standards for maximizing objectivity, feminist thought increases the objectivity of research. This essay reviews recent arguments in both conventional and feminist philosophy and history that support this analysis, and shows how it leads to the construction of stronger standards of objectivity than the conventional only “weak objectivity” that is dependent upon the neutrality ideal. Paradoxical though it may appear, “strong objectivity” requires the kind of conscientious socially situated production of knowledge characteristic of feminist work in economics.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Feminist Economics.

    Volume (Year): 1 (1995)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 7-32

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:1:y:1995:i:1:p:7-32

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    Keywords: Feminism; method; objectivity; philosophy of economics; relativism; values; value-neutrality; politics;

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    Cited by:
    1. van Staveren, I.P., 2002. "Social capital : what is in it for feminist economics?," ISS Working Papers - General Series 19126, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    2. Julie A. Nelson, . "09-03 "Economic Writing on the Pressing Problems of the Day: The Roles of Moral Intuition and Methodological Confusion"," GDAE Working Papers 09-03, GDAE, Tufts University.
    3. Gill, Flora, 2000. "The meaning of work: Lessons from sociology, psychology, and political theory," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 725-743, June.
    4. Wendy Olsen, 2006. "Pluralist Methodology for Development Economics: The Example of Moral Economy of Indian Labour Markets," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-053, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    5. O'Hara, Sabine U., 1997. "Toward a sustaining production theory," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 141-154, February.
    6. Olena Hankivsk & Jane Friesen & Colleen Varcoe & Fiona MacPhail & Lorraine Greaves & Charmaine Spencer, 2004. "Expanding Economic Costing in Health Care: Values, Gender and Diversity," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 30(3), pages 257-282, September.
    7. Nelson, Julie A., 2008. "Economists, value judgments, and climate change: A view from feminist economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 441-447, April.
    8. Gillian Hewitson, 2001. "A Survey of Feminist Economics," Working Papers 2001.01, School of Economics, La Trobe University.

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