Tufts University Students Propose Feminist Economics As An Alternative To Free Market Capitalism

(Photo Illustration by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ian Miles Cheong Contributor
Font Size:

Students at Tufts University are outraged that their school’s Economics Department promotes what they claim to be “capitalist ideologies” rather than social justice.

They claim that capitalism derives profit from the “tearing apart of livelihoods and families of color through its legacy of racism,” and cite feminist economics as a viable alternative.

In an op-ed for the Tufts Observer, students Gabriela Bonfiglio and Kyle Lui complain that the lessons offered by economics professors subtly indoctrinate students towards an acceptance of capitalism.

The article, titled “Moving Beyond Capitalism,” published on September 25 and highlighted on Campus Reform Tuesday, complains about how the university is doing little to “organize around threats to the safety of marginalized students by the Trump administration.” The students allege that the introductory economics course focused on “profit” over everything else.

According to one of the students, Alex Kowalick-Allen, the course wasn’t being taught “as a social science, but as hard science. We got so disconnected from the social side of it—that our economic system is supposed to benefit society.” She was among those with concerns that the Economics Department was “simultaneously created and reinforced by a lack of ideological diversity.”

The authors cite an incident where a professor allegedly made a sexist reference to women’s handbags to explain the concept of luxury goods. They contend that such examples “are some of many devices we see adding up to an inherent and tangible political stance within the Economics department.”

The authors even raise their objections to the lecture-style class format, which they claim that it “acts as a device through which capitalist ideologies are subtly made part of not only the course intent, but also in the way that content is taught.”

They also take issue with the building in which the Economics Department is housed, Braker Hall, calling it a “space of concentrated power on campus” that “lends legitimacy and power” to capitalist thought.

Buried within a deluge of minor complaints, the authors express deep frustration with neoclassical economics, which drives the U.S. economy and every other functioning economy in the world.

“Theories like these regard individuals as able to make deliberate, calculated choices to serve their own interests, instead of seeing happiness as communal,” the authors claim. “In effect, teaching only this economic framework theorizes the way things ought to be and instills it as business as usual, ingraining a sense of ethics into the world by only seeing people as self-serving individuals separate from a larger community.”

They express outrage at free market capitalism, which they claim “created industries that directly [profit] off and [benefit] from the tearing apart of livelihoods and families of color through its legacy of racism.”

As an alternative, the students propose adopting methods employed by the Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where professors “focus on feminism and queerness in their economic research, teaching topics such as the economic and social benefits of legally recognizing queer marriages and the impact of fertility decisions and household work on the economy.”

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.