Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? A Story About Women and Economics

Katrine Marcal, trans. from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel. Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-68177-142-7
Journalist Marcal won several awards for the original Swedish edition of this book, but the translation, although wittily written, is meandering and slow-paced, making it a tough match for an American audience. Using Adam Smith’s iconic “economic man” as a trope on which to hang her argument, Marcal discusses the appeal of the narrative of the driven, profit-making man, which has left women—whose jobs have only shifted from in-home to out-of-home relatively recently—lagging. She suggests that “maybe the changes achieved by the women’s movement in the last 40 years... have simply highlighted an inherent contradiction in society between care work and competition.” Marcal’s discussion of the economic philosophy behind the gender wage gap and the “broken promises” of feminism is interesting, but the framing device of using historical figures such as Adam Smith (and the person in question who cooked his dinner—Margaret Douglas, his mother) never really gets off the ground. More narrative than prescriptive, more food for thought than fount of answers, this ambitious but too-slim book will have a hard time finding readers outside of the European market. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 06/01/2016
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