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Moral banking

"The idea that the world of morals and care is distinct from the world of business has also had an interesting gender dimension in both popular life and scholarly thought. During the Victorian era, middle-class women were thought to be the guardians of morals and care, which were assumed to rule in the home. Meanwhile, men were thought to be morally less pure by nature and hence appropriately assigned to the rough-and-tumble world of competitive business.

Sociologist Arle Hochschild has summarized this ideology in a recent book, stating, "When in the mid-nineteenth century, men were drawn into market life and women remained outside it, female homemakers formed a moral brake on capitalism."

Hochschild does not present this social division as an ideology, however, but rather presents it as though it were fact. Portraying the world as divided into a harsh, depersonalized, masculine world of instrinsically destabilizing materialism and capitalism on the one hand, and an ethical, caring-laden sphere of authentic, nonmonetized family and community relations on the other is a popular theme. Sometimes such thinkers believe that it is now "up to women" to hold the line against capitalist incursion or to lead a movement in to a softer, more feminized, small-is-beautiful, and soulful economic system."

[From the absolutely brilliant Economics for Humans, by the extraordinarily thoughtful and supremely rational Julie A. Nelson]

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