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

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,618 ratings  ·  241 reviews
How do you get your dinner? That is the basic question of economics. It might seem easy, but it is actually very complicated.

When Adam Smith proclaimed that all our actions were motivated by self-interest and the world turned because of financial gain he laid the foundations for 'economic man'. Selfish and cynical, 'economic man' has dominated our thinking ever since, the
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 2nd 2015 by Portobello Books (first published 2012)
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 ·  1,618 ratings  ·  241 reviews

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Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
I REALLY wanted to like this book. I ordered it immediately after reading a review of it because I was so intrigued and excited by its premise. But I ended up disappointed in it and had to force myself to finish it. The central thesis of the book is interesting and crucially important, in my opinion (which is the reason it gets two stars and not one). But the author's clipped writing style would have lent itself better to a manifesto-style book that was half this book's length; that, or the book ...more
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you are wondering what the answer to the title’s question, it was his mother. Adam Smith never married and was cared for by his mother and a female cousin. Without whom he would never have had the time to write The Wealth of Nations.

Very appropriately, this book was penned by a young Swedish woman. She is properly outraged by the assumptions of the field of economics that women and many of the tasks that they undertake really don’t count. She points out that the world gets split in two—male/f
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I enjoyed this book because the author took familiar economic ideas and turned them on their heads. Her point seems to be that economists have primarily been men and have developed an idea of rational "economic man" for how the world should work, leaving out the real "invisible hand", that is, the hand of a (usually unpaid) woman who is taking care of all the nurturing sorts of roles in society so that economic man can go out and manage the "real" economy. She said Adam Smith only mentioned the ...more
Munthir Mahir
Oct 03, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It seemed to me the book was actually a collection of newspaper columns. It is frustrating enough that an author posits a question as the purpose of a book and fail to answer it or deliver a coherent theory or argument on the question. But positing a question and leading the reader to expect an answer only to write at the last pages that the purpose of the book is not to answer the question is deceiving.
Actually there is no question to be answered, as the author concedes in the book that her mai
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
What an interesting and subversive book this was. The "women and economics" story is sort of the background and Marçal spends more time focusing on the myth of the individualistic, rational, "economic man." It's an overview of the history of economics that begins with Smith and the invisible hand, and discusses the legacies of classical and neoliberal economics in short incisive chapters. This was a translation from the Swedish, and after finding myself alarmed at the typos in the 3-page preface ...more
Viv JM
This is an entertaining and thoroughly readable feminist take-down of economic theory, in particular the idea of "economic man". Marcal's writing is occasionally angry, often very funny and always accessible. On the cover of my edition, there is a quote by Caroline Criado-Perez: "I genuinely believe that if everyone read Katrine Marcal's new book, patriarchy would crumble..." I concur!

By the way, the answer to the question "who cooked Adam Smith's dinner?" is, you guessed it, his mother!
Oct 20, 2016 rated it liked it
As an economist and a feminist, I really loved this novel. But, after the first couple of chapters where the significance of women's labor in the household is really underlined, the theoretical jargon concerning economic man simply bored me. I understood it, mostly because I'm studying economics, but the anecdotes and fast-paced chapters failed to really hit home any concrete ideas for me. I also took a few issues with the ending chapters where the author discusses how there's really only one se ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm giving this 5 stars, not in the sense of "best book ever" but rather "everyone should read." I've never studied economics, but I'm familiar with the pretty much ubiquitous idea (in America et al) of the invisible hand of the market--if everyone acts in their own self-interest, it benefits the economy. But this idea doesn't take into account the vast amount of unpaid labour, usually done by women, that actually makes everything run. (E.g. The famous economist Adam Smith's mother cooked his di ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was SO excited to read this book and had such high hopes after hearing her on several podcasts and reading a few of her articles. The book is not necessarily about feminism and econ. It's more about neoliberalism. There are some gems in here and it is worth reading, but I really do want another book just on what it means to have left women about econ and what it means to measure labor a certain way and forget about unpaid work.
Kressel Housman
The concept behind this book begins with a quote from philosopher and economist Adam Smith: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.”

Author Katrine Marcal asks a simple question that became the book’s title: who cooked Adam Smith’s dinner? The answer is: his mother. He never married, and he lived with her all his life. She took care of his meals, so he was free to write. Yet she is completel
Sep 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
As a feminist who is studying economics (at the Master's level), I was excited to read Katrine Marçal's book "Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?". The book purports to analyze and criticize the foundation of economics and argue that economics has excluded women due to the foundational assumption of economic man. To Marçal, "economic man" is everything that a man is, while failing to acknowledge everything that a woman is, even though women are the invisible labour in our economy that keeps it runni ...more
Nick Imrie
Adam Smith said 'It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.' This book is based on an interesting and thought-provoking observation: Adam Smith lived with his mother for all of her life, and she cooked his dinner every day. The butcher, baker and brewer may all demand payment for their work, but the work done by Mrs Smith was done out of love, and she was never paid for it. The book explores the ...more
A readable, witty look at the intersection of economics and feminism. I loved this and breezed through it -- a lot to chew on relating to women's work, economic mobility, and human psychology. Also a reminder than white dudes who did a lot of the groundwork for "thinking" and "philosophy" in the past and became legends were only allowed to do so because mom/wife did all of the other work. In Smith's case, he lived with mom, she fed him, she did the chores, and he only had to work. (Thoreau, if y ...more
Oliver Clarke
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting, well reasoned take on economic theory that provides a useful primer on the basics (which I forgot a very long time ago), and then cleverly dissects them to reveal the significant gaps. The central message being that economic theory ignores the value of work done by women and that this (possibly deliberate) oversight means that the theory the world spins on is dangerously flawed.
It’s engagingly written throughout and never gets to heavy even if, like me, you’re not used to readin
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Not feeling it. Great idea but terrible execution. No single thread through the book, disjointed, too much that's vague at times and overly specific at others. Meh.
Rhiannon Johnson
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has been on my list for a while and I finally got around to reading it. While I did learn several things from the book, I was expecting to find more information about the financial contributions that women's unpaid labor provides to the economy as a whole. There was a lot of introductory economic theory which was informative and easy to understand, but the focus was almost always on "economic man". I feel like this whole book was a great starting point, but it never really got to what ...more
Nick Jacob
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed the concept of "economic man" that the author explores and how our notions of economics are both outdated and don't factor in women. Only criticism of the book is that some of the chapters felt a little choppy and disjointed, though that's likely due to translation. Would definitely recommend this book.
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Some interesting points made and questions asked- like why do we keep assuming that people make rational choices? As we stand on the verge of another financial crisis, it is good to read about and reflect uppnås what happened last time around.
The subtitle of this is A Story About Women and Economics, so it was bound to grab my attention.

It is, in short, a summary of economics and how it doesn't calculate the worth of unpaid work, which is largely but not exclusively, done by women. An example is in the title: undoubtedly Adam Smith had a phenomenal mind and is pretty much the father of modern economics. But he barely mentioned the contribution women made - and many economists fall into the same trap.

Only the support of his mother, an
Jun 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ebook, ibooks
Marcal's thesis - that the economic model on which most of the world operates assumes an "economic man" that acts rationally and in self-interest but depends on assistance to feed him, clothe him, have his children, etc and undervalues all of that effort - makes sense and is a call to action. The problem is that she writes in a staccato style that is all but unreadable. And her passion for the subject is overwhelmed by sarcasm. Too bad because she's on to something. But this is one of the worst ...more
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant book, I learned a lot about economics (but I was starting from a pretty low base). This is a polemic not a textbook and I was aware it was a particular point of view, I am sure there will be critiques of her economic views but I found it compelling and it is very easy to read. If you wonder why no-one saw the 2008 financial crash coming, and why the big banks are still there, doing what they did before while the average person is much worse off, this is the book for you.
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
I'm on board with feminist critiques of mainstream economics, but this book didn't do the subject justice. Rather than provide a data-rich narrative arc, Kielos repeatedly rambles in stream-of-consciousness fashion over the same point. The book is filled with incomplete sentences. Fittingly, she ends the book by describing her garden furniture. Uh, wut?
Trish McLellan
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
Katrine Marcal writes about a part of economics that has never made sense to me. I'm glad someone is making this problem more known about. What we need next is a different way of seeing how the world works.
Vikas Datta
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A very cogent and reasoned critique of the shortcomings of modern economic thought - and reging but restrained anger at where it has led us...
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
I really wish the whole book was as coherent as the epilogue.
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

This book, for its stated purpose, is at its strongest in its beginning and the ending sections. The middle sections provide a useful (and indeed, one of the most concise and accessible) explanation of modern economics and the “economic man,” ultimately showing that women like Adam Smith’s mother have been systemically excluded from economic formulations, and that those formulations, themselves, are built entirely on a masculine perspective.

I would have loved to see steadier incorporat
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Found this book stunning around in my head after I would put it down. It can make you look at your daily first-world life just a little bit differently. It absolutely does not bash males, or even Adam Smith. Kielos and Marçal explain how people are not simple or rational and do not fit the mathematical model that they are expected to. They reveal the consequences of at first forgetting to count half of the population's labor and then later expecting that labor and the women behind it to fit into ...more
Carmel Demery
Mar 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Boring. University text book trying to be something its not.
Aug 18, 2018 added it
Shelves: re-read, 2018-reads
Re-read for book club discussion.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
“wave economic man off from the platform and then build an economy and a society with room for a greater spectrum of what it means to be a human”
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See also Katrine Marçal.

Katrine Linda Mathilda Kielos, born 24 October 1983[1] in Lund, is a Swedish writer and journalist. She currently lives in London.

Kielos earlier served as chief editorialist of the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet where she mainly wrote articles about Swedish and international financial politics and Sweden's state feminism from a radical feminist perspective. She has a Bachel

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“La niña de once años que todas las mañanas recorre quince kilómetros en busca de leña para su familia desempeña un papel enorme en el desarrollo económico de su país. A pesar de ellos, su trabajo no es reconocido. La chica es invisible en las estadísticas económicas. En la magnitud del PIB, por la cual medimos la actividad económica de un país, ella no cuenta. Su actividad no se considera importante para la economía o para el crecimiento económico. Parir niños, criarlos, cultivar el huerto, hacerles la comida a los hermanos, ordeñar la vaca de la familia, coserles la ropa o cuidar de Adam Smith para que él pudiera escribir “La riqueza de las naciones”; nada de esto se considera “trabajo productivo” en los modelos económicos estándar. Fuera del alcance de la mano invisible se encuentra el sexo invisible.” 5 likes
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