This past Tuesday, Julie Matthaei came to deliver a talk on her paper “Workers, Women and Revolution: From Inequality to Solidarity” at the New School. I was lucky enough to have seen her present it before at the ASSA conference in January. Because of the wealth of information contained in the paper as well as the differences in venue, it was by no means a mere reprise.
Matthaei is a pioneer in the area of feminist economics helping to formulate patriarchy as an economic system inextricably linked with the system of capitalist exploitation. After signing an open letter alongside 600 prominent economists in support of raising the minimum wage, she was red-baited in a full page ad in the New York Times by the restaurant industry funded Employment Policies Institute. The ad’s reference to her as a “Marxist feminist anti-racist ecological economist” might have seemed like a smear if it weren’t something she proudly put on the front page of her website. She was initially flabbergasted by the ad, but her colleagues convinced her it was an opportunity to push for alternative economic perspectives to austerity economics.
The paper itself documents the development in the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE) with regards to embracing critical race and gender theory as properly economic theories. When URPE began in 1968, it was – like the academy as a whole – pretty white and male. Alongside the dawning of the second wave feminist movement, the women members of URPE established a women’s caucus that decided to push for more women on the steering committee and the editorial board of the URPE journal Review of Radical Political Economics. When the proposal was voted down by the business meeting, the women on the caucus all walked out in protest followed by the rest of the women in the room, many who were the wives and partners of male economists in URPE. The business meeting consequently reversed their decision and the women rejoined.
Categories: State of the Field