Our usual way of viewing the world as made up of entities that first exist and only later act and relate to each other constricts our thinking. Within it, we can only image three ways of relating: equality, merger, or domination.
In the yin-yang diagram, both light and dark are necessary, and their relationship is dynamic. But in our habitual Western thought not only do we separate the two and think of them as fixed, we tend to associate light with superior and dark with inferior.
A few days ago, I was interviewed by Oshan Joshan for his podcast series “Musing Minds.” We talked about both economics, Zen, gender…so on some of the same themes I’ve addressed elsewhere on this blog.
Oshan gave the interview the title “What If ‘Capitalism’ Isn’t the Problem?” That’s not to say we don’t have enormous problems! Only that we have mis-identified their source.
While the conclusions it comes to are broadly correct, the article “A Feminist Review of Behavioral Economic Research on Gender Differences” by Sent and van Staveren should not be used as a model for methodology.
In their article “A Feminist Review of Behavioral Economic Research on Gender Differences,” published in the April 2019 issue of Feminist Economics, Esther-Mirjam Sent and Irene van Staveren state that their work was inspired by my own work. In a series of articles (here, here, and here) and a book, I had performed meta-analyses of behavioral economics work concerning gender and risk-taking. Sent and van Staveren are to be commended for taking on the ambitious project of extending the focus to include investigations into not only risk, but also overconfidence, altruism, and trust. They also come to conclusions that are, based on my own investigation, broadly correct: “[F]ew studies report statistically significant as well as sizeable differences,” “large intra-gender differences (differences among men and differences among women) exist,” and “[m]any studies have not sufficiently taken account of various social, cultural, and ideological drivers.” I feel obligated, however, to point out that there are a number of methodological problems in their article. While the article is certainly notable, considerable caution should be exercised about taking its methods as a model for future work.Continue reading “A Caution about Sent and van Staveren’s “Feminist Review…””
In the news recently we’ve heard about a study of sexist terms used to refer to women economists. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Yes, economics has a problem with women. In the news recently we’ve heard about the study of the Economics Job Market Rumors (EJMR) on-line forum. Student researcher Alice H. Wu found that posts about women were far more likely to contain words about their personal and physical issues (including “hot,” “lesbian,” “cute,” and “raped” ) than posts about men, which tended to focus more on academic and professional topics. As a woman who has been in the profession for over three decades, however, this is hardly news.
The social science literature is full of claims about the differences between men and women, blacks and whites, rich and poor, and so on. But how can we also examine similarities? This post offers a method.
Men vs. women. Blacks vs. whites. Rich vs. poor. Muslim vs. Christian. We hear a lot, in the social sciences and in the popular media, about how different various groups of people are in their preferences, traits, or behaviors. The finding of a “difference” based on empirical research is considered interesting and publishable! But it also, alas, often leads to much misunderstanding, and even invidious stereotyping.
This is because differences get a lot more attention than similarities. Because similarities are rarely reported on, we have a tendency to slide into thinking that differences are much larger than they actually are. It’s an easy slide from categorizing people under some labels—for example, drawing on people’s self-identification as “a woman,” “a man,” “white,” or “a person of color”—to thinking that traits and behaviors divide easily into the same categories. Continue reading “Index of Similarity (IS): A Tool for Breaking Down Stereotypes”
Conversations with David Loy, Clair Brown and others…
It’s been an interesting couple weeks. Buddhist scholar David Loy and I, along with Jeff Seul, engaged in an online conversation on the One Earth Sangha website about Buddhism and economics. UC Berkeley economist Clair Brown and I, meanwhile, engaged in an email conversation about her new book on the topic.
In the same couple weeks, I also find that I’ve been called a “rubbish”-writing, rent-seeking “neoliberal economist” by a Buddhist blogger.* But, lest you think I only get criticism from the left side of the political spectrum, I’ve also just recently been labeled as an impractical, hopelessly idealistic “windbag” by a well-known actual neoliberal economist.**
Economies have no essential nature. Once this is recognized, many more opportunities for change present themselves.
Many of us, informed about world events and motivated by love and compassion, feel the need for profound economic transformation. We started long ago to question injustice, consumerism, and military-industrial ties. The growing specter of climate-change related disruptions has convinced even more people that ‘business as usual’ is not a viable option.
But what form should this transformation take, and how can we make it happen? I believe that insights from the careful study of both economics and Zen Buddhism can help us along this path—no matter what faith tradition we come from (if any).
Based on a talk given at Harvard Divinity School, sponsored by the Religions and the Practice of Peace Initiative, on Feb. 18, 2016.
MANY BUDDHISTS—as well as many non-Buddhists!—have raised concern and alarm about the climate crisis and other crises facing our society and our world. Clearly, we need to take urgent action. As Buddhists, we have a pressing moral obligation to do what we can to relieve the suffering of all beings on the planet, both now and in the future. Our hearts yearn to make things better.
And clearly much of the climate change disaster is caused by economic activity. If you graph carbon dioxide emissions and industrial output over a long period of time, the two graphs look pretty much identical. The development of large scale, fossil-fuel burning industries was accompanied, in Western societies, by the rise of large corporations, global markets, and a rising emphasis on consumption as a source of well-being. Great wealth has been created, but this wealth has been very unequally distributed, and has often come at the cost of environmental and social sustainability.
It’s abundantly clear that we can’t go on with “business as usual.” People and other sentient beings are already feeling the disruptive effects of a set of historical and social developments that, as a whole, have taken far too little account of the effects of our production and consumption on the rest of nature. We urgently need to change how our economies work.