Gendering the Predator State

Yves here. I am normally not keen about notions like “gendering”. But I hope you agree that this piece is an exception. It looks at the priorities of James Galbraith’s Predator State, and in particular its affinity for militarization and financialization. The authors even go so far as to contend that it gives that form of neoliberalism a particularly masculine presentation. But even if you don’t buy that, the article describes how those focuses are harmful to the disadvantaged, particularly women.

By Damla Topbaş and Adem Yavuz Elveren, Associate Professor of Economics, Fitchburg State University

Feminist political economy analysis draws parallels between male heads of households and the masculine state, both exercising control over dependents under the guise of acting in their best interests. Their hold on power is inherently violent, yet this violence is frequently masked by ideals of virtue and love (Young 2003: 6; True 2015: 419). Expanding on this analogy, one could assert that in the era of financial neoliberalism, the state embodies not just a masculine persona but a “militarized masculine” head of household, and more significantly, one that is “abusive of” women’s labor on a global scale.  Drawing upon James K. Galbraith’s concept of the predatory state, we illustrate the gendered impact of the contemporary capitalist state.

Drawing from Thorstein Veblen’s evolutionary social theory, James K. Galbraith introduced the term the predator state in one of his significant works to elucidate the resurgence of predatory behavior within the business realm in the United States (Galbraith 2008). Galbraith has asserted that during the era of financial neoliberalism, capitalists strived for “complete control of the state apparatus” (Galbraith 2008: 131). This resulted in the government morphing into a mere coalition of representatives from regulated industries—like mining, oil, media, pharmaceuticals, and corporate agriculture—determined to thoroughly dominate the regulatory framework. Their perspective viewed the government’s economic activities not through ideological lenses, but purely as avenues for enormous private profit on a continental scale (ibid. 131). The prey in this scenario is (the majority of) the public, who suffer from the depletion of public resources, which in turn becomes an opportunity for corporations to profit.

Contrary to common understanding, the neoliberal economic paradigm does not necessarily promote a smaller state but rather assigns a greater role to the state in facilitating the expansion of the private sector to pursue profit in more areas (Galbraith 2008; True 2015). In line with this objective, neoliberalism reduces public spending on welfare programs and public goods, weakening social solidarity. This reduction can extend to defense and police services as well. As states become increasingly unable to fulfill these roles, the public sector is perceived as weak (overly “feminine” or “soft”), necessitating the private sector to step in and provide the tasks and services that the weakened state can no longer afford for its citizens (Peterson and Runyan 1999: 104; Via 2010: 46-47).

Militarism is documented to serve as a highly useful tool for the predator state, particularly when aligned with financial neoliberalism (Harvey 2005; True 2015; Marshall 2020; Akcagun-Narin and Elveren 2023). Neoliberal rhetoric often reinforces itself through narratives of fear and danger, emphasizing the importance of state militarization (Harvey 2005). The pervasive threat of terrorism, both internationally and domestically, has significantly influenced discourses surrounding national security, leading to increased social and practical militarization of states. This includes efforts to garner support socially and the hiring of private military companies as extensions of traditional ‘national security’ provided by national militaries (True 2015). This paradigm reinforces higher military spending at the expense of less welfare spending as well as environmental and infrastructure investment, making large majorities more vulnerable to social, economic, and environmental challenges. In other words, the predator state diverts more resources for unproductive but highly profitable arms production at the expense of the welfare of the majority. This is referred to as “structural violence” (Runyan and Peterson 2014). Obviously, gender gaps in the household and paid labor market make the structural violence more detrimental for women. That is, “the structural violence of political, economic, and social priorities and inequalities that leave wide swaths of people subject to unemployment, underemployment, poverty, disease, malnutrition, crime, and domestic and sexual violence” has a gendered dimension (Runyan and Peterson 2014: 13).

Financialization also serves the interests of the predator state, and it has varying impacts on the well-being of men and women. By the 1970s, capitalists sought to bolster their economic power in response to declining profit rates (Harvey 2005). In this regard, adoption of the neoliberal economic policies from the early 1980s onward, coupled with the rapid expansion of the financial sector, presented a valuable opportunity for capitalists to offset the decline in profit rates. Deregulation and advancements in the financial system facilitated a significant increase in cross-border capital flows and the development of new financial instruments, enabling capital to generate substantial profits not through production but through the trading of financial assets (i.e., making money from money). The financial sector has become increasingly involved in financing arms production and has seamlessly integrated with the military sector through stock purchases. This profound shift in the economic paradigm provided arms producers with new opportunities for increased profitability by expanding the scale of arms production and its financing. This symbiotic relationship between the financial sector and arms producers has strengthened in the 21st century. The military sector, with its high profit margins, has become an attractive investment option due to its potential for exceptionally high returns (Marshall 2020; Akcagun-Narin and Elveren 2023). Major financial corporations have expanded their influence over the military sector by acquiring defense firms or purchasing their stocks. Capital enjoys nearly risk-free high returns on investment in militarized sectors, which are increasingly promoted by the militarized predator state. These funds could otherwise be invested in civilian infrastructure or social welfare programs. According to Runyan and Peterson (2014), financial trading diverts resources and focus away from long-term investments in industry, infrastructure, and human (social) capital. This diversion exacerbates conditions of extreme inequality and contributes to crises of social reproduction and sustainability. It is evident that the lack of such investments is likely to disproportionately harm women, as they are more reliant on social spending.

Financialization also increases women’s vulnerability through financial crises. While it facilitates capital accumulation, providing more opportunities for large corporations, it also hampers the capital accumulation process by precipitating financial crises. Undoubtedly, the impact of financial crises varies among social classes and gender. There exists a vast body of literature on the gendered costs of man-made financial crises, with feminist scholars examining how unpaid labor has been called upon to bridge the gap between public welfare and private market provision during economic downturns (Bennholdt-Thomsen 1981; Elson and Pearson 1981; Mackintosh 1981; Mies et al., 1982; Picchio 1992; Elson 1998; Hoskyns and Rai 2007; Bakker 2007; Bedford and Rai, 2010; Rai 2013; Antonopoulos 2014).

When the economic crises hit, unemployment increases, real wages, social services, and welfare transfers decline, women are called upon for their duty to compensate the loss of monetized income. They increase both their paid and unpaid work, in terms of both time and intensity. Sassen refers to this phenomenon as the “feminization of survival” (2000), wherein women, as a survival strategy, rely heavily on informal activities to ensure social reproduction. Man-made financial/economic crises result in the loss of secure jobs and earning capacity, leading to women’s concentration in precarious forms of employment. This, in turn, leads to longer work hours for women as they strive to mitigate the impact on household income. Additionally, there is a decrease in girls’ participation in education, deteriorating health conditions for women, increased child labor, and women’s involvement in both licit and illicit informal activities. Moreover, there is an increase in structural violence as well as direct violence against women (Aslanbeigui and Summerfield 2001; Harcourt 2014; Runyan and Peterson 2014; Sutton 2010; True 2012; True and Tanyag 2019: 18).

The militarized masculine nature of the predator state is deeply intertwined with its organic relationship with military production. This symbiosis not only fosters the expansion of the private sector but also cultivates a fertile ground for its involvement in military endeavors, whether directly through contracts or indirectly through the involvement of financial sector. In this sense, the home of the predator state is the Military-Industrial Complex, its influence reaching across the globe like a relentless hunter. By leveraging real or perceived threats posed by terrorism and enemies, the militarized masculine predator state justifies its exercise of power in the name of protecting the majority of its populace. However, this protection often comes at the steep price of neglecting investments in social welfare. Moreover, the burden of sustaining this illusion of security falls disproportionately on the shoulders of the most vulnerable members of society, particularly women. As social welfare curtails, women find themselves shouldering an increasingly heavy burden.

In conclusion, the predator state is gendered; it embodies a “militarized masculine” identity and operates within the home of the (global) Military-Industrial Complex, relying on unpaid labor of women.


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Marshall, S. (2020). The Defense Industry’s Role in Militarizing US Foreign Policy. Middle East Research and Information Project No. 294.

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    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Barnes. Yes. This is one more attempt not to engage in class politics and to pretend that upper-middle-class U.S. women are victims. Yet the corporatization of U.S. life has put plenty of bourgeoises in place to wreak havoc–protected by limited liability laws and class politics. I’m reminded of Carly Fiorina.

      This observation is worthwhile: “Contrary to common understanding, the neoliberal economic paradigm does not necessarily promote a smaller state but rather assigns a greater role to the state in facilitating the expansion of the private sector to pursue profit in more areas (Galbraith 2008; True 2015). In line with this objective, neoliberalism reduces public spending on welfare programs and public goods, weakening social solidarity.”

      It doesn’t flow from this observation by Galbraith that women won’t benefit from the new neoliberal dispensation.

      We are seeing too many women in positions of power only too happy to wield power along the lines of neoliberal “ethics,” that is, through class warfare and use of the mechanisms of the predatory state to impoverish large portions of the population. Not just Nuland. The endlessness of the mediocrity of Hillary Clinton is another prime example, maybe the prime example, of the morphing of feminism into neoliberal greed and misuse of power.

      When it comes to issues of power, and to people asserting that women in the Anglo-American elites are somehow powerless, one must be thoroughly skeptical. I, too, watched the testimony of Matt Taibbi in front of Garcia, Plaskett, and Wasserman-Schulz. And in Europe, one continues to wonder at Ursula van der Leyen and Roberta Metsola. And the grandmother of them all, Gloria Steinem, seems to have enjoyed her years at the CIA.

      1. Barnes

        I was going to write a longer comment along your lines but decided to make my point by using her name as an example.
        To clarify my position: I do see male dominance as a serious issue and agree that women shoulder a lot of unpaid and, worse, unappreciated labor. And I say that as a white male, who has nursed and cared for quite a few people both professionally and privately. So I can tell that even in professional care men and women alike can behave pretty inhumanely. I also knew a woman who excelled at her job to trade rather bloody raw materials originating mostly from African countries with abysmal human rights violations and labor standards. She was as ruthless as her entirely male counterparts and she did not care where the material came from, as long as it was profitable.
        In short: power corrupts, no matter the gender. I agree, that H. Clinton is another solid example.

      2. Neutrino

        Those neoliberal ethics aren’t going to publicize and enforce themselves. They will need significant media collaboration stenography Bernays Sauce assistance.

        Will there be pronouns involved?

        Honorable mention to MAD-eleine Körbelová Albright? /s

      3. Kontrary Kansan

        Please, it’s not the scant number of women-in-power, or anyone in power, who suffer under the neoliberal MIC. It’s the women who chk out your groceries, serve your food andvwipe your table, type your letters, etc who get hammered–especially single moms.
        H. Clinton did get scr*wed, as it were, by neoliberal Bill just not the way traditionally imagine practiced.

        1. Pym of Nantucket

          So it’s a correlation vs. causation argument. Again.

          I would argue that misogyny on the broad class mobility scale is the prevalent problem and that creates an unequitable distribution of opportunities in the business of murder and mayhem at the top. This gives rise to more in the business of killing self identifying as male. Of course there is most likely a combination of both effects.

    2. Lefty Godot

      It seems to be a requirement for women in politics in the US to develop a stereotyped “masculine style” if they want to attain a high position in the state apparatus. So mentioning the Nulands and Albrights and Rodham Clintons and Haleys does not contradict that women overall end up with disproportionate burdens when economic and social conditions are degraded. Class does trump all else, but among the PTB a macho style of presentation is still de rigueur, in business and politics. For the most part it’s a fake toughness and hypermasculinity, since most of the notable warmongers have never served in a theater of war and prefer other people’s children to fulfill that role.

      The PMC promotes women and people “of color” to be lead actors because DEI should make one happier to have a black president doing drone assassinations and bombings or a woman State Department official overseeing violent overthrows of elected governments. It’s another tactic to lull the low information voters into nodding along with horrific government violence, because “it’s time we had a woman President” or whatever the PR for the chosen intersectional mascot is this year.

  1. Rob Urie

    This is a very good piece.

    However, the issue of the ‘falling rate of profit’ in the 1970s, which comes from the Marxist theorist David Harvey, only works with real profits, meaning that inflation was the problem, not the nominal rate of profit.

    Why this matters is that the potential solutions are very different. With a falling rate of profit, the solution is to restructure the profit generation process. With inflation, the solution is to lower the rate of inflation.

    Understanding of this was implied when Jimmy Carter made Paul Volcker Chair of the Fed with a mandate to fight inflation.

    And yet neoliberalism was the result, nonetheless.

    I’m sure the author knows this, but it is an important omission. Following WWII the Federal government forced women out of industrial jobs (Rosie the Riveter) to make room for returning GIs.

    This left women dependent on men as ‘breadwinners’ when they had already demonstrated that they were capable to any who might have doubted it.

    Point: patriarchy was official policy, meaning that assertions that it was chosen get complicated fast.

    (This result holds across various measures of profitability).

    1. JohnnyGL

      Yes, it is a good piece. I think fits in nicely when adding a racial component, too. Gender roles, justified by security needs, help to reinforce racial hierarchy, too.

      Women need to be ‘protected’ against our ‘enemy within’, the racial underclass. Thus, the immerseration for the underclass created through this exercise of creating security helps justify and sustain wealth in the top tiers.

      1. Rob Urie

        The idea that you must agree with something or someone either wholly or in part to see value in it is relatively new.

        I find value in the comments on military affairs of Douglas MacGregor, even though I don’t agree with a word of his economics or politics.

        But his military insights have been very useful in understanding current events. So, do I cancel him because I disagree with his economics and politics?

        1. AG

          “The idea that you must agree with something or someone either wholly or in part to see value in it is relatively new.”

          –> “relatively new” – when?

    2. Lefty Godot

      The two oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 were what upended the Fordist economy and led to financialization as the preferred method of profit extraction. Maybe we would have gotten to the same end anyway, but the stupidity of Nixon and Carter precipitated us into that reality much sooner. What will be ironic is when the financialization of the military industrial complex leaves us unable to fight a real war, because equipping us to do that (versus bombing populations who can’t fight back) hurts the profit margins of the corporations who have been feeding at the fiat money trough.

      1. AG

        This is Sci-Fi (I just watched the movie “The Creator”) – but if war-making were conducted by AI-units wouldn´t that be the dream for financialization of MIC?

    3. hemeantwell

      Identifying the trajectory of profits in the post-WW2 period has set off debates that are hard to summarize. However, based on my limited understanding, it is important to look at the profit rate, both as an aggregate and within different industries, if you want to assess the state of the economy as seen through the eyes of capitalists calculating where to invest.

      The very aggregated figure depicted in the graph Rob linked has the weakness of overlooking, at least in recent years, how the very outsized contribution of a few huge firms — Apple, Microsoft and several others — hide lower rates of profitability in other sectors. Beyond that, Robert Brenner’s 2006 book, The Economics of Global Turbulence, argued in chart-filled fashion that since the early 70s the profit rate had tended to fall. The primary constraint on the profit rate lay in a gradual increase in competition between firms in the leading capitalist economies as the pervasive damage wrought during WW2 was overcome, a process that was only accelerated by the rise of China as a manufacturing power in the 90s. I’ve lost track of debates over profit rate calculation, which can get very MEGO. But the Brenner analysis is well away from the dustbin. An important implication of structural profit rate problems is that capitalists will turn to the state for profit guarantees, hence “political capitalism.” If there’s any truth to the notion of societal convergence, it’s there.

  2. JohnnyGL

    I have long thought Jamie Galbraith’s ‘predator state’ was underrated. It seems like the right framework for the approach to things like Medicare Advantage and the MA Health Connector (and the Obamacare insurance marketing website). The state is directing human traffic to feed the oligarchic institutions.

    I think it even helps explain free vaccines…sure, maybe there’s some social benefit, but that’s only an ancillary consequence. The real point is to pump up profits to favored interest groups. Neoliberalism as a framework doesn’t really explain this, the state shouldn’t be involved, but Pfizer, Moderna very much WANT the state to get involved…just on their terms.

    1. GramSci

      I especially liked his solution to the illegal immigration problem: raise the minimum wage. Of course that would also require that labor laws be enforced, but you have to admire his sly sense of humor.

  3. Carolinian

    If one wants to get anthropological about it you can look at those hunter gatherer tribes where the men do the fighting and hunting and the women do all the work. Now put that into skyscrapers. One might even suggest that some tenets of feminism are almost like Tom Sawyer and the whitewash–convincing women that doing all the work is self fulfillment rather than merely them doing all the work. The movie Barbie moseys around these ideas in a not very coherent way (really just about the sets and costumes).

    Of course the above is way too reductionist, but I know a divorced mother who saw her work life as a necessity to raise her three kids rather than an ultimate goal. Perhaps we do have to include sexual differences as part of a deeper form of economics.

    1. Eric Anderson

      Interestingly enough, I recently attended a presentation on historical research investigating domestic violence among pre-genocide Native Americans. Their conclusions were that it didn’t exist due swift communal justice, robust egalitarianism, and no clear demarcation between matriarchy and patriarchy.

      Trauma at the hands of violence leads to further violence inducing trauma. It is a vicious cycle western patriarchy promotes, rather than eschews.

      1. Carolinian

        Tell that to the plains tribes where the women did the incredibly hard work of scraping and curing the buffalo hides while the men were out shooting them. Of course my comment is very much a stereotype but perhaps not an inaccurate one.

        Meanwhile in Africa the women would tend to the fields while the men were out etc.

        As for violence and competition being some European import, I don’t think history says that is true. As populations grow they must compete for resources. If this seems suppressed in some Native groups it could be due to lack of population density.

      2. Albe Vado

        Which tribes? Sweeping statements like this are essentially meaningless. The pre-colonization Americas were host to hundreds of different groups and cultures.

        I don’t know about domestic violence specifically, that seems like something we might have scant evidence for one way or another. But many Native American cultures were, and still are, absolutely patriarchal.

        We don’t need to regurgitate notions of the Noble Savage to condemn European colonialism and genocide. The European actions are inherently condemnation worthy in and of themselves. They don’t need to be bolstered by overly idealizing the societies they harmed or outright destroyed.

  4. Eric Anderson

    Oh, I don’t think there is anything not to believe here Yves. I just finished attending a week long domestic violence conference as training to be on the list of “parenting coordinator” with the state Supreme Court. PCs are appointed by judges to high conflict child custody matters. I’m working hard to change my entire family law practice to a non-adversarial model. I just can’t, in good conscience, continue to participate in model that gives lip service to the “best interests of a child,” while simultaneously pitting the parents into an adversarial war against one another.

    The statistics on male perpetrated violence in the household will make you break down and cry in despair for the human race.

    1. Dessa

      I’m already crying in despair for humankind. I’d be interested to hear those statistics, if you have them handy

      1. Eric Anderson

        I wish I had them readily available myself. Supporting materials for over 200+ attendees was an expense too far for the organizers I think. However, I will link you to one of the keynote presenters Laura Richards. Her CV is amazing and she provides all kinds of links and resources at her website, here:

  5. Susan the other

    The state of the art of predation has changed. Now Houthi drones can cripple the US Navy. Extremely accurate missiles can come out of the blue and everything is prosecuted on a keyboard. Everything except holding territory because that takes boots on the ground. I think it is age-old wisdom that the feminization of survival isn’t just a human phenomenon – it’s true for all species. What we need to focus on is a change of priorities. This isn’t a football game anymore, but it is, in fact, still a game of survival. This morning a blurb about cyber crime terrorizing hospitals, an all new form of extortion. Which seems tame compared to the Israelis bombing them. Instead of using entire generations of young men as canon fodder, we need to tweak our tactics. We need to militarize peace. Peace, cooperation, ecology, well-being and sustainability. To approach the future like the idiots we have always been is now even too idiotic for us.

  6. Retired Carpenter

    A related datum: In the USA “A worker died every 96 minutes from a work-related injury in 2022 compared to 101 minutes in 2021″ ( Gendering: ” job related fatalities for XY folk is almost an order of magnitude greater than the XX variety” ( ). Us XY deplorables seem to be rather inept predators…
    Retired Carpenter

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