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Publication Details

Reference
Sahle, Eunice Njeri (2008) Gender, States & Markets
Harold Wolpe and ActionAid International Joint Lecture : 1-24.

Summary
The last two decades have witnessed attempts to reform the economic and political characteristics of African states along the lines of the neoliberal development paradigm. In the economic arena, most states have instituted development policies aimed at significantly reducing the role ofthe state. On the political front, an attempt has been made to introduce good governance practices of which an important aspect has been the demise of one-party authoritarian states and the establishment ofmultiparty political structures. In neoliberal terms, these reforms are intended to rejuvenate Africa's stunted economic and political development and thus facilitate the continent's transition to modern market-based capitalist societies.

This paper examines neoliberal restructuring with specific reference to reforms geared to promote a market-based capital accumulation process in contemporary Africa. The paper contends that, contrary to the neoliberal theory that informs contemporary reconfiguration of the role of the state in the economic arena in Africa and elsewhere, state structures and markets are not gender neutral. The analysis demonstrates how the patriarchal ideology that has marked the evolution of a state-led capital accumulation process has contributed to the marginalization of the majority of African women. It also highlights how the promotion of market-led accumulation strategies by the transnational lending community and the governing institutions of this community, leading among them the World Bank, is deepening this process in the contemporary era. The paper has three sections. The first section discusses the dominant approaches to the central concerns ofthis paper and highlights the analytical power of a critical feminist political economy perspective. Section two demonstrates the gendered foundations of African states through an examination ofcore aspects of the state-led accumulation process in the colonial and pre-neoliberal restructuring periods. The last section analyzes the key features of neoliberal market-based reforms and shows their gendered nature.

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