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Women's Agency In Classical Economic Thought: Adam Smith, Harriet Taylor Mill, And J. S. Mill

Ronald Bodkin ()

Feminist Economics, 1999, vol. 5, issue 1, 45-60

Abstract: In this paper, the issue of women's agency (defined as the capacity of a female economic agent for rational decision-making) is examined in classical economic thought, with Adam Smith and the Mills taken as case studies. It is concluded that Smith had relatively little confidence in women's independent judgment and hence in their capacity for reasoned decisions on economic matters. By contrast, the Mills, almost alone among classical economists, did trust women to make decisions in their long-run interest. With the arrival of academic feminism in economics, the time is ripe for a reappraisal of such implicit assumptions, and it is concluded that current-day economists would do better to follow the Mills, rather than Adam Smith, on this matter.

Keywords: Classical Thought; Women's Agency; Feminism (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1999
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DOI: 10.1080/135457099338148

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