Women And The Postcommunist Transition

BUDAPEST / VIENNA: Economists are often unconcerned about the social context of their work. In the transition from communism, many simply failed to ponder the full consequences of their proposals on the poor, the elderly, children, the Roma minority, or women.

Take the example of women. In theory, the state and the market are gender-blind: in practice, they are not. Feminist analysts, such as Patricia Williams, have shown that gender biases are built into society. That critique was valid for socialist societies, too. No matter where, elimination of state sponsored gender bias needs deliberate intervention. Here an irony intrudes: usually prompted by civil movements, removal of such biases only becomes effective when these movements have their goals implemented by direct state action.

The same applies to the market, which also appears gender-blind. Left to itself, however, the market is not. Powerful interests usually prevail. Mechanisms of correction are also similar. The 'voice' of citizens, civil discontent and pressure, are sometimes sufficient to curb 'stronger' market forces (victorious strikes are a good example). More often, only state legislation can enforce the will of citizens; strikes, for example, may be made legal or illegal depending on state regulation.

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