Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The goal of economic empowerment? Alison blog post 5

I emerge from break a couple days behind on this blog post (sorry all!) but working frantically to finish job applications and my research paper draft and to generally figure things out after a much-needed mental vacation. Over the past month, I read the book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which I would recommend to all readers of this blog. The author, John Perkins, details his work with international organizations to promote infrastructure development in developing countries for the benefit of American corporations. Perkins especially criticizes the role of the US government in expanding corporate control around the globe. His controversial claims critique presidents and span countries from Panama to Saudi Arabia to Indonesia.

This focus on negative ulterior motives for economic development made me start to question my research topic of women in economy. I believe expanded opportunities for jobs and economic participation are crucial to everyone in our society, and bring many positives to lives of all. But, do those with greater power often benefit more and can even increased economic development lead to exploitation? Yes.

Additionally, many studies and speakers emphasize the importance of women working on the economy more broadly (see this Wall Street Journal report and Hillary Clinton at Georgetown). I also think this is important, but I aim to focus more on the human rights of individual women. I worry that by studying women in the economy I overlook the negative aspects of larger exploitative economic systems that Perkins discusses. However, I don't think it is even within the scope of my research (or page limit) to address this. Hopefully, I can highlight the positive human rights can bring for improving the lives of women, while keeping these much larger issues in perspective.


  1. Yes, this is why you need to make your life's work about improving economic opportunities for women and let this paper be your starting point. There are so many exploitive and oppressive ways societies keep women from being fully compensated in the workforce. You are expanding on that from within which is just as important. Thanks for the book recommendation.

  2. Alison, You summarize well the pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages of one aspect of improving life for women around the world. Life is made of choices, and we often have to choose between difficult options, or sometimes just choose the lesser of two evils. Your paper will raise important issues....both positive and negative. Great way to start an interesting discussion......