Gender and the Crisis: A Keynote Address
How is the crisis restructuring the gender regime? The complex inequalities on which the financial crisis draws, and which the development of global finance exacerbates, intersect in diverse ways. The paper argues for a gendered conceptualisation of the crisis, not as "refamilialisation" in which women are pushed out of production back into reproduction, but rather as a critical turning point in the trajectory of the public gender regime from a more social democratic form to a more neoliberal form. The paper offers analyses of gendered practices of the stages of the crisis. It addresses whether the crisis – erupting in finance in 2007, and cascading through the economy, the fiscal, and the political – is now leading to an increase in violence. Is the mid-twentieth century European nightmare, in which financial crisis led to economic recession, fascism and violence, being repeated today? What constitutes crisis is contested. The construction of government deficits as if they entailed fiscal crisis to be treated as a state of exception is contested. The cascading of crisis from one institutional domain to another is also contested, since renewed democratic forces potentially provide sites of resilience and resistance. The significance of gender relations in this democratic resistance is underestimated. The theorisation of crisis is developed using complexity science, gender theory, and a reworking of the concept of social system.
Sylvia Walby is Distinguished Professor of Sociology, UNESCO Chair in Gender Research, and Director of the Violence and Society UNESCO Centre at Lancaster University. Professor Walby has held positions at the LSE, University of Leeds, University of Bristol, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Harvard University. She was the first President of the European Sociological Association and has been Chair of the Women's Studies Network UK. She was awarded an OBE in 2008 for services to equal opportunities and diversity.
She has a long standing research interest in changes in gendered employment and their interconnection to wider systems of economy and society. Her research involves constant movement between the theorisation of gender and (in)equality, its measurement and the study of its policy impact. Her current work focuses on ending violence against women, its measurement and social costs, gendered political economy and the current economic and financial crisis, policies towards equalities, the sociology of the EU, and complexity theory. In Crisis, a book published by Polity Press in 2015, Walby discuses and the concept of crisis and the cascading crisis in the UK and EU.
Previous books include: Globalization and Inequalities: Complexity and Contested Modernities (Sage 2009), The Future of Feminism (Polity 2011), and Stopping Rape: Towards a Comprehensive Policy (Policy Press 2015).
This keynote address is part of the conference Gender and the Economic Crisis.