Reality and analysis: personal and technical reflections on the working lives of six women

Reality and analysis: personal and technical reflections on the working lives of six women

Re-understanding neo-classical economics from experience-based perspectives

A group of development analysts – researchers, activists, and practitioners - engaged in an unusual exercise in early 2004. They had a dialogue about labour market, trade and poverty issues, but they preceded the dialogue with exposure to the realities of the lives of six host women in Gujarat: Dohiben, Kalavatiben, Kamlaben, Kesarben, Leelaben and Ushaben. These women are all members of SEWA (the Self-Employed Women’s Association) of India. Their struggles provided the frame for the technical dialogue that followed. This is a Compendium of personal and technical reflections of the analysts involved in the exercise.

The Exposure and Dialogue Program (EDP) is a program developed by Karl Osner and the German Association for Exposure and Dialogue Programmes. The central idea behind EDP is to give senior level technocrats and bureaucrats in development assistance an exposure to the realities of the lives of the people whom their policies and projects might affect. The Compendium includes background on the history and process of the methodology.

The document brings together notes on the dialogue between mainstream labour economists, activists, and researchers around key assumptions of neo-classical economics, and neo-liberal economic policies, which "trouble" grassroots activists. For example:

  • why "full employment" or, simply, "employment" is no longer an objective of macro-economics and is not seen as a key causal pathway between different patterns of growth/trade liberalisation and poverty outcomes
  • why interventions in labour markets – e.g. minimum wage legislation, are seen as creating distortions or rigidities
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