Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Counting for Nothing

Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth

Marilyn Waring
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 362
  • Book Info
    Counting for Nothing
    Book Description:

    The calculation of "national wealth" is full of bias, particularly gender bias against women. Waring's classic analysis of women's place in the world economy is brought up to date in this reprinted edition by a sizable new introduction by the author.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2356-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Economics

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Marilyn Waring
  5. Introduction to the Second Edition
    (pp. xix-lii)
    Marilyn Waring

    Dear Reader,

    This is a postscript masquerading as an introduction to a second edition. As a consequence, I write with some presumption that the reader is familiar with the debates recounted in the text. If this is the first time you have arrived at this place of inquiry and interest, please turn now to the prologue, and rejoin me here after you have read the original text. This will provide a bridge to this “introduction” and counter the possibility of considerable frustration on your part.

    Twelve years have past since I completed the draft manuscript ofCounting for Nothing. Those...

    (pp. 1-11)

    A synopsis, some chapter headings, a draft first chapter, and now a book contract, lie on the table in front of me. This goat farmer sits here surrounded by ten years of paper clippings, political papers and notes, and diary entries from visits to every political bloc and continent.

    This inquiry began when I was appointed to and then chaired the Public Expenditure Select (Public Accounts and Budget) Committee during my terms as a Member of the New Zealand Parliament from 1975 to 1984. At one point in my tenure as Chairwoman, New Zealand revised its System of National Accounts...

    (pp. 12-36)

    I am awake in a glistening morning ready to write. From the window, the lush green grass, thick with autumn dew, leads to the empty beach. The sea and sky beyond — both blue and unpolluted — are washed clear and clean by the sun. The only sounds are the early dawn chorus and the roaring of the waves. I sit, as writers and artists have sat for centuries, labouring unpaid. Yet I am sure this is work. I am sure it is productive, and I hope it will be of value. But as far as the International Labour Organisation...

  8. 2. A Calling to Account WHO DEVELOPED THE UNSNA AND WHY
    (pp. 37-59)

    The successful transmission of propaganda relies heavily on cliché or rhetoric. It also relies on inducing fear (of, for example, the unknown or uncontrollable) in a submissive public who will not ask too many enlightened questions. It is not surprising then, that many people, and women in particular, have “economics anxiety”. Mathematical, mechanical and medical anxieties, and other mystifications may represent a deliberate obfuscation; an effort to remove the discipline and its information from the powerless. Such political exclusivity is also useful to disguise vulnerability and to keep from telling the truth. It is reinforced by a lack of direct...

  9. 3. The Boundary of Conception HOW THE UNSNA MAKES WOMEN INVISIBLE
    (pp. 60-74)

    Chapter 2 examined the categories that form the basis of the national accounts. These categories give an indication of the “facts of the actual world” as observed by economists. But having established these categories, what general “laws” of political economy did the economists enshrine? The answer lies in a closer examination of the UNSNA, and its rules. To decide what did or did not constitute production, a production boundary was decided upon. All things of no “value” were excluded from the production boundary. Of particular importance for the operation of the system was the definition of a household — which...

  10. 4. Nothing Sexist Here STATISTICIANS IN ACTION
    (pp. 75-92)

    The conceptual difficulties surroundingwork, production, economic activity, or thehouseholdappear to be a problem of observation and the participant observer. But in my ten years of political experience and research on this book, my questions about the hows and whys of such observations consistently met with stock answers from the three groups involved: the policymakers, the economists, and the statisticians. The policymakers said that they could only work with, and from, the economists’ models and the statisticians’ figures. The economists said that they worked within policy guidelines that required particular statistics. And the statisticians said that they just...

  11. 5. The Statistical Conspiracy SOURCES FOR THE NATIONAL ACCOUNTS
    (pp. 93-117)

    In practice, the national accounts of any country are compiled from a wide range of statistics derived from a variety of sources. While some of these sources provide a direct measure of economic activity during a period, others are used as indicators of movements, such as consumer price indexes. To give an idea of the variety of sources involved, let me briefly summarise those used by economists in my own country, New Zealand. While New Zealand has a small population (3.3 million) and only about 200,000 “transactors,” the methods of data collection are comparable with those of most developed countries....

    (pp. 118-134)

    Even if an economist has no regard for feminist concerns whatsoever, he or she will in all likelihood be able to list several major problems with the UNSNA.

    In 1985 I asked a number of economists how they viewed the United Nations system of national accounts and their own countries’ systems of national accounts. The four men were all offered anonymity so that they might be encouraged to speak freely.

    One of them, a former student of Sir Richard Stone, had the following comments to make.

    National accounts are inaccurate even in things that are supposedly measureable. The world’s balance...

    (pp. 135-152)

    While women, children and the environment are counted as nothing, the entire international economic system calls war productive and valuable. The men who rule us are willing to cause and perpetrate wars and mass destruction. The policy propaganda of national income accounting generates a belief that many economic problems — unemployment, underutilisation of capital, lack of growth — are susceptible to improvement through military spending.

    This is in spite of the fact that military spending allocates resources to unproductive endeavours. Military spending does not add to an economy’s productive capital stock. A stockpile of nuclear weapons is not worth anything...

    (pp. 153-181)

    The previous chapter examined the high value men place on death. Now we will examine the value our society places on life — and on the women who give and bear life. In a sane world, it would seem, humankind would place a high value on life and those able to provide it. Given the world of the last chapter, however, we might fear the worst. Let’s take a look at the economics of reproduction.

    Women give birth. Women deliver human life to the world. Sometimes they are sold to men that they might bear children, and sons in particular,...

  15. 9. The Eye of the Beholder THE UNSNA AS APPLIED PATRIARCHY
    (pp. 182-202)

    Despite many years of token acknowledgement by the UN and other agencies of women’s vital role in production and reproduction, and despite many women’s real efforts to create awareness, the UNSNA and the countries and agencies that work with it have refused to include women in their statistics.

    As an agent of sexist propaganda, economics does not operate in isolation. It is supported by and part of the international gender conspiracy administered by political, religious, legal, administrative, and cultural hierarchies. It is part of the continuum that ensures women’s invisibility and enslavement. How does this conspiracy operate, and what is...

  16. 10. “Your Economic Theory Makes No Sense” ECONOMICS AND THE EXPLOITATION OF THE PLANET
    (pp. 203-223)

    Have you ever drunk pure fresh water from a waterfall or mountain stream? The best champagne I’ve tasted could not compete for taste, bouquet, or crispness. Have you seen the orange/yellow/red/ochre/cream/green/turquoise of algae gathered on silica on volcanic shelves older than recorded history? No raku pottery glaze can imitate the colour, texture, or design.

    The pottery and the champagne are of value. But the water and silica are thought of as the free gifts of nature, simply there in abundance, or as community resources that will always be available. As an invisible factor in the economic universe, they might be...

  17. 11. If Counting was the Limit of Intelligence MY SEARCH FOR AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE UNSNA
    (pp. 224-241)

    It it neither impossible nor difficult for a particular class or caste to enslave others. Though generally frowned upon, this enslavement is rarely contested if shown to be “scientifically valid” and if it seems “conceptually impossible” to function in any other way. The propaganda that supports the patriarchal ideology is loaded with such “objective,” “logical” characteristics, and as we have seen, they are demonstrably invalid.

    Occasionally even liberals within the patriarchal tradition have seen difficulties and have sought reform. Before I move to the suggestion of a totally different model on which to base public policy formation, I want to...

  18. 12. Glimpsing the Whole A NEW MODEL FOR GLOBAL ECONOMICS
    (pp. 242-255)

    A need or desire to glimpse the whole has never found its place in the disciplinary mainstream of economics. The majority approach is entrenched, reactionary, and, at best, strictly reformist. In the context of the UNSNA this is characterised by the “building block” approach, which argues that the stability and longitudinal comparability of statistics in the existing system should not be disturbed. This ensures a continued vicarious and second class relationship of “the maintenance of well-being in the community” to the continued primary importance of “winning the war” and of “the market.”

    My discomfort with the notion that, for the...

  19. Epilogue A CALL TO ACTION
    (pp. 256-264)

    If information empowers, and if power is the capacity to act, then I hope these few hundred pages have begun a process for many people. So what can we do?

    The capacity to act takes many forms, and the options available are limited only by our fear, our lack of imagination, or a belief that specific “politically correct” strategies must be followed. While there exists a capacity to act, there is the possibility of change.

    Australian philosopher and feminist Elizabeth Reid counsels that expanding the UNSNA to include our ecosystem and the unpaid work of women may see us co-opted....

  20. Appendices
    (pp. 265-269)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 270-279)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 280-290)
  23. Index
    (pp. 291-310)