ecofeminist political economy – notes 1: Mary Mellor

Mary Mellor

School of Arts and Social Sciences Northumbria University – Sustainable Cities Research Institute

‘Mary Mellor argues that ecofeminism has a major contribution to make to understanding the current destructive relationship between humanity and nonhuman nature. She describes her work as ecofeminist political economy, which sees women’s work and lives as standing at the intersection of destructive economies and the natural world. Her concern is with women’s position at the boundaries of economic systems. Ecofeminist political economy sees the externalisation and exploitation of women and nature as linked. For women, their marginalisation from what is identified as ‘the economy’ is not accidental. While women are present in the economy in large numbers as consumers and employees, their lives as women is excluded. That is, the particular experience of being a woman in a gendered society. Central to this is women’s work. Women’s work is the work that has historically been associated with women, both inside and outside of the market place. Women’s work is the basic work that makes other forms of activity possible. It secures the human body and the community. If a woman enters formal economic life she must leave her woman-life behind; childcare, domestic work, responsibility for elderly relatives, subsistence work, community activities. Economic life is therefore limited and partial in relationship to women’s lives.

Green economics, Mary Mellor argues, can be strengthened by an understanding of ecofeminist political economy. Exploring the gendering of economic systems can provide new ways to think about economic systems and develop alternatives. The role of gender in the construction of economic systems means that ‘the economy’ does not relate to the totality of human active labour and natural resources, what has been described as the real economy. What the modern economy represents is a boundary around limited activities and functions in which the process of valuing and male-ness are connected. The more work is valued, the more male-dominated it becomes. The more necessary and unremitting it is, the more female-dominated it becomes. One thing ‘the economy’ does not represent is the provisioning of human society or the sustaining of the natural world. Mary Mellor argues that what is needed is an alternative way to construct a provisioning economy that does not exclude women’s work or the natural world. To help construct an alternative, her recent writings have brought together ecofeminist economics, social economics and theories of money issue and circulation as the basis of a democratic, equitable and ecologically sustainable economy’.

Mellor, M. (2006) ‘Ecofeminist Political Economy’ International Journal of Green Economics 1(1-2): 139-150.

Mellor, M. (2005) ‘Ecofeminist Political Economy: Integrating Feminist Economics and Ecological Economics’ Feminist Economics 11(3): 120-126.

Mellor, M. (1997)  Feminism and Ecology Polity Press: Cambridge; New York University Press. (also published as Feminismo y ecologica Siglo Veintiuna Editores Mexico)

‘Against the trends towards radical economic liberalism, global capitalism and postmodernist pluralism, she argues that there is within the feminist and green movements the basis of a new radical movement which draws on the principles of both’, Lavoisier Librarie.

Mellor (1997) ‘Women, nature and the social construction of’economic man’ – Ecological Economics

argues that the social construction ‘economic man’ is the product of a hierarchical dualism in western society that has also created ‘rational man’ and ‘scientific man’. Women and the natural world form the subordinated half of these dualisms.

Mellor, M. (1992) Breaking The Boundaries:Towards a Feminist, Green Socialism Virago: London (also published in German, Japanese, Turkish).

Mellor, M. (2009) ‘Ecofeminist Political Economy and the Politics of Money’ in Salleh, A. (ed) Eco-Sufficiency and Global Justice Pluto Press

Mellor, M. (2007) ‘Ecofeminism: Linking Gender And Ecology’  in Pretty, J. et al. (eds)  Handbook on Environment and Society London: Sage.

Mellor, M. (2006) ‘Feminism and Environmental Ethics: A materialist approach’ in Pretty, J. (ed)  Key Issues for the Twentieth Century – Environment Vol 1 Sage.

1 thought on “ecofeminist political economy – notes 1: Mary Mellor

  1. Ross Wolfe

    Recently I wrote a blog entry offering a leftist critique of the ideology of “Green” environmentalism, deep ecology, eco-feminism, and lifestyle politics in general (veganism, “dumpster diving,” “buying organic,” “locavorism,” etc.). I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter and any responses you might have to its criticisms.


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