Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2010

The Relational Economy: A Buddhist and Feminist Analysis

Julie A. Nelson

May 2010

Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University


In the social activism literature authored by many Western Buddhists, a deep understanding of Buddhist philosophy is often shown. But it is, unfortunately, accompanied by a relatively shallow understanding of economic life. This is understandable, as the sort of conventional understanding demonstrated is both widely popular and endorsed by most professional economists. While I hold a Ph.D. and a position as an economics professor at a U.S. university, my studies of feminist scholarship have led me to look critically at conventional economic theories. My views are also influenced by my studies and practice as a student in the Boundless Way Zen Sangha. Feminism provides one lever for breaking open old, dogmatic beliefs, revealing their delusional nature. Buddhism can further help keep us from building up rigid new delusions out of broken-up old ones.