Neoliberalism – that ‘grab-bag of ideas based on the fundamentalist notion that markets are selfcorrecting, allocate resources efficiently and serve the public interest well’ as Stiglitz (2008) puts it – has been a focal point for contestation in development.
Feminists have highlighted its deleterious effects on women’s lives and on gender relations. They have drawn attention to the extent to which the institutions promoting neoliberal economic and social policies have undermined a more progressive agenda, as they have come to appropriate words such as ‘empowerment’ and ‘agency’ and eviscerate them of any association with a project of progressive social change. This collection of articles brings together reflections from a diversity of locations on prospects for reclaiming these ideas and using them to reframe and revitalise feminist engagement with development. To reclaim feminist concepts like ‘agency’ and ‘empowerment’, we argue, we need to return to and reaffirm their ‘liberating’ dimensions, reaffirming their association with forms of collective action that involve resisting and transgressing repressive social norms.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 41.1 (2010) Introduction: Reclaiming Feminism: Gender and Neoliberalism