Clocks, Creation and Clarity: Insights on Ethics and Economics from a Feminist Perspective

Nelson, Julie
September 2004
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Sep2004, Vol. 7 Issue 4, p381
Academic Journal
This essay discusses the origins, biases, and effects on contemporary discussions of economics and ethics of the unexamined use of the metaphor “an economy is a machine.” Both neoliberal economics and many critiques of capitalist systems take this metaphor as their starting point. The belief that economies run according to universal “laws of motion,” however, is shown to be based on a variety of rationalist thinking that - while widely held - is inadequate for explaining lived human experience. Feminist scholarship in the philosophy of science and economics has brought to light some of the biases that have supported the mechanistic worldview. Possible alternatives to the “an economy is a machine” include “an economy is a creative process” and “an economy is an organism.” Such metaphors are intellectually defensible as guides to scientific inquiry and provide a richer ground for moral imagination.


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