The best books on feminist political economy

Who am I?

I grew up in a family exposed to great contrasts of poverty and wealth, in which women were always the ones expected to ‘make nice.” I’ve long been fascinated by the parallels among unfair inequalities based on gender, sexuality, age, race, ethnicity, citizenship, and class, and the ways in which these inequalities are disguised, justified, or just plain ignored. This fascination has driven my successful and very lucky career as a socialist feminist economist and public intellectual.


I wrote...

The Rise and Decline of Patriarchal Systems

By Nancy Folbre,

Book cover of The Rise and Decline of Patriarchal Systems

What is my book about?

Why do patriarchal systems survive? This book examines the contradictory effects of capitalist development, explaining why the work of caring for others is undervalued and under-rewarded in today's global economy. It upends conventional definitions of the economy based only on the market and emphasizes the production of human capabilities in families and communities. The social reproduction of group solidarities creates fractal inequalities that often stabilize hierarchical systems, but sometimes lead to the development of coalitions for progressive change.

The books I picked & why

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If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics

By Marilyn Waring,

Book cover of If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics

Why this book?

A great—and very readable--explanation of how unpaid work, including care for dependents, has been rendered economically invisible. You may consider the “national income accounts” a hopelessly boring topic. This book will change your mind, and economists today are actually paying attention to it. Sooner rather than later the very concept of “income” is going to be redefined.


Beyond Economic Man: Feminist Theory and Economics

By Marianne A. Ferber, Julie A. Nelson,

Book cover of Beyond Economic Man: Feminist Theory and Economics

Why this book?

This classic anthology reveals “rational economic man” as a naked and misshapen emperor pretending to be grandly dressed. While unpacking the androcentric (and plain old sexist) assumptions of conventional economic theory, it also provides rich examples of new ways of explaining the links between gender, care, and inequality.


Reversed Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought

By Naila Kabeer,

Book cover of Reversed Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought

Why this book?

Take a look at gender inequality from the perspective of the Global South. Naila Kabeer combines creative theorizing with insights from field research. She’s not afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom about sweatshops and insists that even factory jobs that are poorly paid by Western standards can increase women’s autonomy and bargaining power.


The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence

By The Care Collective, Andreas Chatzidakis, Jamie Hakim, Catherine Rottenberg

Book cover of The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence

Why this book?

You may not agree with everything in this book (I don’t) but its extraordinarily compelling critique of profit worship built on utter disregard for the well-being of others illustrates powerful synergies between patriarchal and capitalist norms. At the same time, the care collective offers powerful examples of the ways in which people sometimes rally quite effectively around principles of mutual aid.


Gender, Development and Globalization: Economics as if All People Mattered

By Lourdes Beneria, Günseli Berik, Maria Floro

Book cover of Gender, Development and Globalization: Economics as if All People Mattered

Why this book?

It’s a great and up-to-date overview of gender inequality on a global scale, covering paid and unpaid work, public policies, and the impact of patriarchal institutions. It also explains why current trajectories of economic development are both inadequate and unsustainable.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in feminist economics, the political economy, and feminism?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about feminist economics, the political economy, and feminism.

Feminist Economics Explore 5 books about feminist economics
The Political Economy Explore 9 books about the political economy
Feminism Explore 160 books about feminism

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like How the West Grew Rich, The Law by Frederic Bastiat, and Beauvoir in Time if you like this list.