Tag Archives: development

The politics of power in (ir)responsible business

Birkbeck’s Responsible Business Centre seminar series discusses gender inequality and the mechanisms through which men and masculinities maintain their dominance in marketing and consumer research.

The second in the series of Birkbeck’s Responsible Business Centre research seminars was focused on the politics of power in (ir)responsible business: Men, masculinities and transnational patriarchies and the case of marketing and consumer research.

The seminar was led by Dr Wendy Hein, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Birkbeck University of London. Dr Hein was joined by Professor Jeff Hearn from Hanken School of Economics, Finland, who recently co-authored a chapter in the book: ‘The Routledge Companion to Marketing and Feminism.’.

Transnational patriarchies are complex, structural and material issues that remain despite efforts of business to increase a focus on gender and intersectionality. Dr Hein provided perspectives on these structural and material complexities by naming and addressing transnational male-dominated patriarchies.

Increase in women’s representation = increase in young men’s crime?

Dr Hein began the seminar with a quote from Nick Fletcher MP, who made a speech at Westminster on International Men’s Day 25th November 2021.

“In recent years we have seen Doctor Who, Ghostbusters, Luke Skywalker, The Equalizer, all replaced by women, and men are left with the Krays and Tommy Shelby. Is there any wonder we are seeing so many young men committing crime?”

Dr Hein argued that while the cultural sphere has evolved, it has done so as a result of decades and histories of under-representation. Although representation has increased, this does not imply that women are equally represented. There are still industries and sectors where women are underrepresented in terms of roles and participation.

How important is gender equality?

Achieving gender equality is central to development, as Dr Hein explained by presenting the report findings from the UN: ‘Reaching gender-equal educational attainment and labour force participation would add US$4.4 trillion to global GDP by 2030’ which would in turn help to reduce poverty.

Gender equality is also critical in driving sustainable development in areas such as providing equal access to family planning and education on land rights and sustainability.

Gender inequality is still prevalent today and gender relations are still characterised by various types of male dominance on a global/transnational scale. Dr Hein put this into focus by discussing the reports that Afghanistan has recently banned girls from attending school. Women also remain the main care workers in positions that are unpaid. According to a report by Oxfam 2020 ‘women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each day—a contribution to the global economy of at least US$10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry’.

What is patriarchy or transpatriarchy and how does this relate to marketing?

The majority of research in marketing is about men and produced by men. As a result, men are often mentioned in the context of consumer culture but rarely gendered, thus forming an ‘absent presence’.

Dr Hein then discussed the role of patriarchy in transnational markets, including the worldwide flow of products, services, and finance. As a result, there is worldwide wealth inequality and international migration is widespread.

Dr Hein concluded the seminar by emphasising the importance of maintaining momentum on debates on critical study of men, masculinities and transpatriarchies. There is a greater need than ever before, since the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report stated that the ‘impact of Covid-19 has set gender equality back by another generation. It is now believed that it will take 135.6 years to reach gender equality’.

The focus of research should be on the superior position of transnational media, as well as transnational influence in private and public spheres. Unless we tackle these growing inequities and transnational structural inequalities, true sustainability will remain a goal for future generations.

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Exploring race, racism and international development

This post was contributed by Anna Marry, Communications Manager, London International Development Centre (LIDC) .  

Race, Racism and Development book cover

Race, racism and development book cover

Contesting what is often taken for granted in international development is important, but rare. That’s why I found this book launch for Race, racism and development very refreshing and different.It was also a truly intercollegiate event on a truly interdisciplinary topic.

On 29 January 2013 the London International Development Centre (LIDC), a consortium of the five Bloomsbury Colleges, and Birkbeck’s Department of Geography, Environment and Development Studies organised a book launch  for Race, racism and development: Interrogating history, discourse and practice (Zed Books) by Dr Kalpana Wilson, Visiting Lecturer at Birkbeck and LSE Fellow in Gender Theory, Globalisation and Development. The event was hosted by the Institute of Education (IOE) and chaired by Dr Parvathi Rahman from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS, with Firoze Manji, CODESRIA(Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa), as discussant.

Kalpana Wilson’s motif for writing the book was a silence she observed about race in international development discourse, what she called ‘the whiteness of development’ – white experts talking about what should be done. Rather than simply advocating measures to change the personnel of development institutions, Kalpana set out to examine questions of structural racism in development. She was interested in how ideas of race legitimise certain power relations, looking both at history (e.g. the anti-colonial movement in India) and the present, for instance the war on terror. Kalpana’s focus in writing the book was on how ideas get incorporated and transformed in public narratives of race. Recently we can observe what she refers to as the ‘racialisation of hunger’ – poverty and hunger are essentially associated with Asia and Africa, both with respect to material relations and representation.

Gender is important too. Not so long ago ‘Third World’ women were pictured as helpless and needing to be saved. Now that image has changed, they are finally seen as agents, but to the other extreme, as  entrepreneurial, hard-working and altruistic to the point of being superhuman. And yet the idea of political agency is still associated with the global North.

Firoze Manji, in his discussant’s comments, described development as a sophisticated euphemism that Kaplana deconstructs and links to other ‘forbidden’ words like racism and liberalism. There is no such thing as poverty, claimed Manji, only impoverishment, and this is what we call ‘development’ . ‘Development’ is in fact about exploiting the South, with NGOs playing the role of new colonisers. Kalpana also takes apart what Manji referred to as ‘the pornography of development’, portraying the developing world in a pessimistic, exaggerated way that is meant to shock. Manji argued that in a post-colonial, globalised world we are now experiencing a shift in defining who we are and who the ‘other’ is, but it is nevertheless useful to keep the colonial past fresh in our minds.

The lively discussion that followed raised issues about Marxism; the idea of the innocent, unspoilt South that needs to be saved; gender; the deserving and undeserving poor; the racialisation of corruption,; and the need to delegitimise the NGOs.

This event was different in a very refreshing way. It provided an open platform for examining and contesting what is often taken for granted in international development. It allowed radical ideas to be expressed and engaged with. I was talking to a SOAS student of Development Studies over a drink after the presentations, who said: “At SOAS we learn how to be critical of governments and international organisations. But this is new – that NGOs can also be a destructive power in international development.”

Whether that statement is true or not depends on one’s perspective, but one thing is certain – the event revealed a new dimension and a new way of thinking about international development. And that’s always a good thing.