Politik und Gesellschaft Online
International Politics and Society 2/1999


Vorläufige Fassung / Preliminary version

Birgit Sauer:

Restructuring gender relationships in a market without borders

The term "globalisation" is being used to implement a political transformation project which gives the market as regulatory principle considerably greater room for manoeuvre, correspondingly restricting the room of what is politically negotiable. The transition from the "Keynesian welfare state" to the "Schumpeterian performance state" has fundamental effects on the gender relationship. The neo-liberal advance of the market in several respects undermines progress in women's issues which had been achieved in the context of the "Keynesian welfare state". For the market only appears to be gender neutral. It continues to need the "household" as the social institution responsible – on the basis of unpaid work by women and the gender identity built on that – for human reproduction. The modern western welfare state made the allocation of gender roles, which are not principally called into question, more accessible to the emancipation of women in that it gave comprehensive economic protection to the household sphere which opened up to women a certain independence. Labour market related equal opportunities policies also took effect against this background. Such room for manoeuvre is now narrowing down again. At the same time the new market conditions are also resulting in the erosion of adequately paid full-time work and of family income. This drives greater numbers of women on to the labour market which tends to assign them the badly paid jobs. The gender hierarchy is today no longer reflected in access to and exclusion from the labour market but in the concentration of women in the lower labour market segment. On the other hand, the erosion of the family-based patriarchy, caused by economic factors, also undermines the understanding of male and female roles on which it is based. This at least opens an opportunity for a comprehensive gender-democratic redefinition of masculinity and femininity. The political struggle against the unequal gender order must increasingly concentrate on arenas outside the nation state. The issue today is less the politicisation of the private realm as the place of oppression than the re-democratisation of the public sphere which in the course of reducing the influence of the state is becoming increasingly subject to male oligarchies.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition juliag | April 1999