Reconstructing Rationality: Towards a Critical Economic Theory of Reproduction

Pamela Bridgewater, American University Washington College of Law


This Article’s central objectives are threefold. First, it develops the notion that history offers a great deal of information establishing the connection between economics and reproduction. It looks specifically to the role reproduction played in establishing and maintaining perhaps two of the most important institutions in U.S. history—marriage and slavery. Particular attention is paid to the way economic realities greatly impacted the reproductive realities of players in the master-slave system, especially women. The second objective is to show how key concepts in economic theory, namely utility, efficiency, and rationality might be constructed or reconstructed to inform our understanding of the motivations, interests, and relative power dynamics of the parties in the modern market for reproductive services and materials. Lastly, this Article seeks to contribute to the conversation on the opportunities and challenges of a regulated market and consider whether such a market could provide greater access to “better” and “positive” tangible outcomes to more participants than what is possible under the current market.