Indiana Daily Student

Patten lecturer discusses societal roles in economy

Using diagrams of hand-drawn mazes and wired circuit boards, Nancy Folbre related the interaction of societal factors such as race, gender and identity in various neoclassical and Marxist theories, challenging the status quo of academic thought on societal influences in power 

It was all part of Folbre’s second lecture this week in the Patten Foundation’s 2015-16 Patten Lecture 

Folbre, a professor emerita of economics and director of the Political Economy Research Institute’s Program on Gender and Care Work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, also lectured Tuesday evening.

She met throughout the last two days with honors and gender studies students as part of the Patten Foundation’s programming.

The foundation seeks to connect distinguished lecturers with the IU community for a number of days rather than just speaking at one lecture.

Folbre said her meetings with IU students, faculty and staff brought “terrific intellectual engagement.”

In her talk, “The Political Economy of Patriarchal Systems,” in President’s Hall on Thursday evening, Folbre emphasized the economic intersection in gender structures in modern society.

“Feminist theory has gone through a serious phase of self-interrogation and intellectual searching about the importance of the importance of this inconsistency,” Folbre said, referencing basic models’ accounting for only one personal identity.

Senior Sarah Clark, who attended the talk after hearing about it in her gender studies class, said Folbre’s model was aone she had never seen in her classes.

“In class we always talk about intersectionality,” Clark said. “Her representation of intersectionality is very different than what I’ve seen before. You always see the bubble charts that are overlapping, but you never see the dynamics of it and how there’s social hierarchies in between social groups themselves.”

In her talk, Folbre analyzed how multiple identity factors contribute to social inequality and social groupings.

She provided an overview of systemic political economies, discussed constraints of societal agencies and dissected the role of reproduction in a feminist theory, all via her own distinct approach to explaining how varying factors influence different power structures.

Believing basic tri-structured models, like bubble charts, do not go far enough to explain the complexity of racial, gender and economic influences on an average person’s struggle for power, Folbre presented her own model in response to the traditional academic models being studied.

Drawing influence from electronic circuit boards, Folbre’s model showed connected pathways representing the reliance of other people on groups formed by societal classes to achieve greater representation in society.

Folbre said in order to address such complex issues of inequality as represented in her model, scholars must look to where societal identities are first formed, reproduction.

She said people are born into some specific identities such as races and gender without having a choice, which leads to inherent advantages and disadvantages throughout life.

Folbre’s talk culminated in a relation of societal roles, gender specifically, to economic structures, drawing examples from female presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina. She said she believed class and gender differences in such cases can be viewed in a very non-dimensional way.

“That’s exactly what I’m trying to challenge with this theoretical framework,” Folbre said. “This discussion is to offer a way of developing the economic dimensions of intersectionality in a more assertive way.”

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