19 ottobre - Institutions, property, and gender inequality


19 ottobre - Institutions, property, and gender inequality

Si è svolto lunedì 19 ottobre il sesto incontro del ciclo di conferenze Expo2015 con la prof.ssa Bina Agarwal della University of Manchester



Nobel Laureate Douglas North defines institutions as ‘the rules of the game in a society’, ‘the humanly devised constraints’ that shape people’s interactions – political, social and economic. They can be formal (such as laws) or informal (such as social norms and conventions), and they specify what individuals are prohibited from doing or allowed to do under specified conditions. According to North this reduces uncertainty and transactions costs by establishing a stable structure for human interaction. But what if these rules and norms are deeply unequal and devised largely by the powerful? Inequalities also produce economic inefficiencies and political disabilities. And is stability which entrenches deep inequality even desirable?

This lecture will demonstrate how existing rules—both formal and informal—that govern human interaction are deeply gendered and unequal in relation to women in most societies. In turn, these institutional inequities can lead to great inequalities in access to wealth and property, with adverse implications not only for social justice but also for economic efficiency. Moreover, gender inequalities prevail not only in relation to private property resources (such as land or housing) but also to common property resources (such as forests and water), as well to bodies which shape ideas about gender (such as the media).

Drawing especially on examples from South Asia, this lecture will trace the nature, forms and implications of gender inequalities in institutions governing private and public property. It will also address the question: how can gendered rules (and especially social norms) be changed to make them more equitable? It will present potential pathways for change, such as through enhancing women’s bargaining power both within the family and vis-à-vis communities, markets and the State.