Past Events

Institutions, Property & Gender Inequality

May 3, 2017

Institutions embody the “rules of the game in a society,” according to Nobel Laureate Douglas North. These humanly devised constraints shape people’s interactions – political, social and economic – and establish a stable social structure. But what if the rules are deeply unequal, devised largely by the powerful? And is stability which entrenches inequality even desirable?

Noted economist Bina Agarwal’s lecture demonstrated how women face deep inequalities in rules and norms, which, in turn, create severe inequalities in their access to both private and public property. Based on her research, she challenged standard economic analysis to show how these inequalities undermine both economic efficiency and social justice. She also outlined pathways to change, such as by enhancing women’s bargaining power in multiple arenas: the family, community, markets, and state.

Agarwal is an award-winning author whose most recent three volume compendium, “Gender Challenges,” unravels the nature of gender inequality in multiple institutions: those governing agriculture, property, and the environment. She is professor of development economics and environment at the University of Manchester, UK. Prior to this, she was director and professor of economics at the Institute of Economic Growth at Delhi University.

The Robert Heilbroner Memorial Lecture on the Future of Capitalism:

The Heilbroner lecture honors the work of Robert Heilbroner, who was both a student and a professor in the economics department of The New School for Social Research. This event is dedicated to understanding questions of economic justice and how the profit-seeking activities of private firms might also serve broader social goals. To use Heilbroner’s words, “capitalism’s uniqueness in history lies in its continuously self-generated change, but it is this very dynamism that is the system’s chief enemy.”