The gender of capital

The Gender of Capital: How Families Perpetuate Wealth Inequality, La Découverte, 2020 [in French]. Co-authored with Sibylle Gollac

Why do women accumulate less wealth than men? Why do marital separations impoverish women while they do not prevent men from becoming wealthy? This groundbreaking work approaches the institution of family from a materialist point of view, breaking with the dominant theory of modern, economically disinterested family relations. It takes seriously the economists, in the wake of Thomas Piketty, who observe a return to property inequality, based on the legacy of capitalism in the twenty-first century. It reconsiders the effectivity of legal changes that profess formal equality between men and women while condoning inequality in practice.

Drawing on research spanning twenty years, the authors analyze what they call family wealth arrangements. They break with the common understanding of the family as an emotional haven of peace in a brutal capitalist world. Spouses and partners, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers do not play the same part in family strategies of social reproduction, nor do they reap the same profits from them. In reality, the family is an economic institution that produces, circulates, controls and evaluates wealth. The meaning of this economic institution is revealed, in particular, in moments of marital breakdown and inheritance.

From the single mothers of the French “Yellow Vest” movement to the divorce of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, from the legacy of family businesses to the estate of the Trump family, the mechanisms of control and distribution of capital vary according to social class, yet always result in the disposession of women. Capital is gendered. This book describes how class society is perpetuated through the masculine appropriation of capital.

Reviews of the book:

Plenty of reviews in French

December, 1, 2020, in Population, by Mathieu Trachman [in English]

September, 1, 2020, “Mechanismen männlicher Macht“, by Julia Spohr in Soziopolis [in German]

July, 24, 2020, Shanghai Review of Books by Nan Nan [in Chinese]

Some papers in English about this research:

2021, “Why do Women Accumulate Less Wealth than Men”, in Marlène Benquet and Théo Bourgeron (dir.), Accumulating Capital, Routledge [avec Sibylle Gollac], pp. 224-234.

2019, « Reversed Accounting: Legal Professionals, Families and the Gender Wealth Gap in France », Socio-Economic Review (DOI: 10.1093/ser/mwz036).

review by Dace Sulmane in the bulletin of the Supreme Court of Latvia, dec. 2019, n°19, pp. 118-120

2018, “Is Social Network Analysis Useful for Studying the Family Economy”, Economic Sociology_the european electronic newsletter,vol 19, n°3, p. 4-10 [avec Sibylle Gollac].