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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Fetish of Development


In our push to measure contemporary forms of precarity under globalization—especially that attached to the symbolic value of female and feminized labor at the center of economic consolidation and wealth—we do a grave disservice to ignore the history of the economic and social transformation proposed by development policy makers during the era of decolonization. Decolonization presented global finance capital with a new set of challenges for management and domination of the global order especially since women had played such key roles in anti-colonial movements. Under the guise of development the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) promised to apply technological solutions and modernizing beliefs to fix poverty and to help women achieve their goals for economic independence. Development coupled extant ideologies about and aspirations for mobilizing women’s reproductive capacities, unpaid labor, and women’s management of resources and economies in order to render these capacities and social relations into worker identities and consciousness. 

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