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Economists, social reformers, and prophets: a feminist critique of economic efficiency


  • Drucilla Barker


This article examines the concept of Pareto optimality, bringing to light some of its implicit assumptions about the nature of human agency, work, and gender. It explores the androcentric character of the economic agent and the gendered nature of neoclassical models in relation to the historical development of the concept of economic efficiency during the late 1930s. The thrust toward the development of Pareto optimality as a scientific criterion of economic welfare was a response to the methodological tensions between the clearly political nature of economics and the scientific aspirations of economists. An examination of the debates from this period illuminates some of the values that became embedded in neoclassical economics, and which are now hidden by the masks of mathematics and abstraction.

Suggested Citation

  • Drucilla Barker, 1995. "Economists, social reformers, and prophets: a feminist critique of economic efficiency," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(3), pages 26-39.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:1:y:1995:i:3:p:26-39
    DOI: 10.1080/714042247

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    1. repec:nwe:eajour:y:2018:i:1:p:5-24 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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.


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