A Modern Division Of Labor And Gender Norms

1173 words - 5 pages

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 relation with an economic division of labor and gender norms. Second, I compare and contrast Becker’s gendered model of an efficient division of labor with Iversen’s to demonstrate macroeconomic changes spur changes in household bargaining by revising gender norms. Finally, I discuss increased female labor force participation rates during WWII to demonstrate macroeconomic changes force a revision of gender norms for efficient labor organization.
A society’s production technology, or modes of production determine political and economic organization—i.e. hunter-gatherer, agrarian, industrial, etc. These modes of production, then, determine material macroconditions such as female labor force participation rate and gender norms, which necessitate human behavioral changes to yield efficient divisions of labor. In other words, as society progresses from one mode of production to the next (i.e. agricultural to industrial), it must reorganize socially, economically, and politically to accommodate material conditions. Iversen confirms that macroconditions affect microdecisions as he notes “[d]ifferent modes of economic production shape the intrahousehold bargaining environment and, by extension, influence social norms that...

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