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Who is the ‘individual’ in Macroeconomics?

Rebuilding Macroeconomics Prosperity Index

21 January 2022

Rebuilding Macroeconomics held its Fourth Annual Women in Macroeconomics Conference, just before Christmas, looking at who we mean by the ‘individual’ in macroeconomics, particularly when considering gendered roles and identities.

In orthodox economics the decision-making agent is unequivocally the individual. If we enquire more about who she or he may be, we are told it is someone with their own tastes and preferences who makes their choices in splendid isolation. This definition is indiscriminate, untestable and tells us absolutely nothing about who she or he really is.

Feminist Economists such as Julie Nelson, who was one of the conference speakers, have long criticised this particular concept of individual, and the connected notion of so-called ‘objectivity’ that it affords. Their ideas are finally being heard. Social psychologists and economists offer a more nuanced interpretation of relational identity (mother or daughter) and categorical identity (a woman).

This intersectional appreciation of our many identities as an individual can incorporate both agency and social influence on behaviour. This offers the prospect of some appreciation of the axes of power relations across and between gender, class, race, caste and nationality.

We were delighted to have an afternoon of vibrant and forthright exchanges. You can replay the event through the link below and a particular mention to our all-action friend Deirdre McCloskey.

For details, please visit https://www.rebuildingmacroeconomics.ac.uk/events

Julie Nelson, University of Massachusetts - Boston

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