Journal Article

IDS Bulletin Vol. 39 Nos. 6

Holding it Together in a Crisis: Family Strengthening and Embedding Neoliberalism

Published on 1 December 2008

We have begun to recognize the need to base our development approach more solidly on partnership (Nicolas Stern, former World Bank Chief Economist 2003)

The field of International Political Economy is awash with references to crisis, shock and rupture (Klein 2007; Blustein 2003). Neoliberalism is widely understood to have entered and exited the world stage with the help of crises, bookended on one side (in Latin America at least) by the debt crisis and hyperinflation, and on the other by financial crises and a perceived meltdown in social sustainability. The Post Washington Consensus (PWC) agenda was a response to the latter problem, placing greater emphasis on institutional strengthening, balance between states and markets, and equity and inclusion. This shift is broadly understood as an attempt to embed neoliberalism and secure its sustainability by better insulating it from crises.

Gender and sexuality are rarely considered relevant to these debates, but two feminist insights about crisis have clear import: that gendered and sexualised anxieties can be central to experiences of crisis; and that neoliberalism has generated a gendered crisis in social reproduction. These insights show how perceptions of a crisis in the family, in sexuality and in gender relations more broadly can serve to crystallise anxieties about social change, demonstrating that threats to the nation-state may be filtered through gendered and sexualised anxieties about national virility, sovereignty, and integrity (Alexander 2005; Hoad 2000; Tadiar 1998). Using these frameworks, I ask what we can learn about crisis management, embedding neoliberalism and the dynamic between appeals to the past and present during crisis by taking gender and sexuality seriously. How are debates about neoliberal crisis gendered? What kinds of gender reform are considered central to recovery, and what kinds of intimate relations and social reproduction arrangements does the post-crisis future herald? And what can this tell us about the role of heteronormativity in development more generally?

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This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 39.6 (2008) Holding it Together in a Crisis: Family Strengthening and Embedding Neoliberalism

Cite this publication

Bedford, K. (2008) Holding it Together in a Crisis: Family Strengthening and Embedding Neoliberalism. IDS Bulletin 39(6): 60-66


Kate Bedford

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published by
Institute of Development Studies
Bedford, Kate


About this publication

Latin America

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