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Can feminist thought make economics more objective?


  • Sandra Harding


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Sandra Harding, 1995. "Can feminist thought make economics more objective?," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(1), pages 7-32.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:1:y:1995:i:1:p:7-32
    DOI: 10.1080/714042212

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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Julie Nelson, 2015. "Fearing fear: gender and economic discourse," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 14(1), pages 129-139, June.
    2. Alejandra Montes-de-Oca-O'Reilly & Verónica Ortiz, 2014. "Work and Gender among Co-owners of Family Micro-Enterprises in Mexico," International Journal of Business and Social Research, MIR Center for Socio-Economic Research, vol. 4(12), pages 70-85, December.
    3. O'Hara, Sabine U., 1997. "Toward a sustaining production theory," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 141-154, February.
    4. repec:nwe:eajour:y:2018:i:1:p:5-24 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Gillian Hewitson, 2001. "A Survey of Feminist Economics," Working Papers 2001.01, School of Economics, La Trobe University.
    6. Wendy Olsen, 2007. "Pluralist methodology for development economics: the example of moral economy of Indian labour markets," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(1), pages 57-82.


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