A Modern Division of Labor and Gender Norms

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Modern feminists might gasp if I assert patriarchy once allowed efficient economic organization, but the tools of modern political economy unveil the mystery of why inegalitarian gender norms were once economically efficient. Evolving modes of production and material constraints necessitate an efficient division of labor guided by socialized gender norms that adapt to economic macroconditions. Gary Becker and Torben Iversen understand an economic division of labor differently given their different historical-material conditions. In his “Theory of the Allocation of Time,” Becker models an ideal economic division of labor with the household as a single entity seeking maximum utility. Men specialize in marketable skills due to a comparative advantage in hard labor; women specialize in general household skills and motherhood. Iversen’s concept of an efficient division of labor does not view the household as a single entity and instead views the individual as the basic economic unit—less gendered social norms result. Thus, as society evolves from agricultural to industrial and then to postindustrial modes of production, gender norms adapt to society’s needs and wants to yield efficient divisions of labor. When material macroconditions advance, households restructure gender norms and behavior out of demand for a more efficient division of labor. In this paper, I argue the evolution of the modes of production alters power dynamics in household bargaining, which force gender norms to conform to market demands for a revised division of labor. To support my claim that modes of production alter gender power dynamics to conform to market demands for an efficient division of labor, I first define “modes of production” and discuss its r... ... middle of paper ... ...ticipation or sudden sectorial shifts necessitated by historical circumstance enforce a revision of gender norms. Empirical data further suggests that gender norms are the product of advances to modes of production that allow economically efficient divisions of labor. Works Cited Becker, Gary. “A Theory of the Allocation of Time.” The Economic Journal 75, no. 229 (1965). Pp. 493-517. Accessed on 17 April, 2014. Clayton-Dye, Amanda. “The Political Economy of Gender.” Lectures at University of Washington, Seattle, 8 April, 2014. Iversen, Torben and Frances Rosenbluth. Women, Work, and Power: The Political Economy of Gender Inequality. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. Kindle E-Book. Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. 4th Edition. Edited by R.H. Campbell and A.S. Skinner. 1776. Reprint, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.
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