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GALLI, Ida; LIGUORI, Anna; LORENZI-CIOLDI, Fabio  and  FASANELLI, Roberto. Men, Women, and Economic Changes: Social Representations of the Economic CrisisHombres, mujeres y cambios económicos: representaciones sociales de la crisis económica. Interdisciplinaria [online]. 2019, vol.36, n.2, pp.283-298. ISSN 1668-7027.

The current economic crisis has been a new and unexpected phenomenon; it is part of the capitalist banking and economic system that has been known until 2008. The crisis has led to banks, states, international institutions, as well as common people, changing profoundly their representations about the economy. In this scenario, some questions arise: how do men and women of different social status face the complex and unknown phenomenon of the economic crisis? Do gender and social status justify the different meanings attributed to the crisis, to its causes and its consequences? When confronted with an external threat like the economic crisis, people draw on social representations to provide meaning to that unfamiliar situation. Through media and interpersonal communication, social groups produce naive theories that improve familiarity with an unexpected and distressing phenomenon. In order to analyze these lay theories elaborated though daily economic thinking and acting, this research has been conducted using Social Representation Theory and its methodological approaches. This theory, in fact, contributes to our understanding of the societal process of sense making when an unexperienced external shock affects society. It offers a way to understand economic phenomena’s impact on social groups. Social representations (SRs) serve the purpose of making the unfamiliar become familiar, and the unusual become usual, as well as to provide orientation in times of change. In this sense, in this article, social representations theory is used to examine the role of gender and educational status in the production of representations of the crisis. Presented findings came from a survey carried out in Southern Italy (N = 120) revealing status and gender differences in the ways people define the crisis and cope with it. Participants were asked to order the first most important five statements and the first least important statements, among a list of 15 (according to the rule of a multiple of 3) to code every item with a score of 1 (less characteristic), 3 (more characteristic), or 2 (not chosen). Every Questionnaire of Characterization was created starting from social descriptions and explanations of the crisis, identified in a previous study. They covered every sub-dimension of the content (complementary to the structure) of the social representation of the crisis, such as: cognitive-evaluative aspects about the representation’s structure (central and peripheral elements); descriptive-defining aspects of the representation; informative sources and interaction networks; level of involvement/implication with the object; relationship between representation and social practices; perceptions, attributions and categorizations (causes, responsibilities, duration/evolution, solutions, positive implications, the EU’s role). In this paper, we will only consider the answers related to the following dimensions: crisis definitions, strategies to tackle the crisis and social practices related to the crisis. The analysis of the data was carried out primarily using Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA). In this analysis, in order to uncover the objectification and anchoring processes, we considered the interaction of status and gender as an illustrative variable. These findings were further substantiated with the use of Discriminant analysis. The social anchoring of social representations of the economic crisis is influenced by gender and social status. Nevertheless, the difference in status modifies the stereotypical dimensions, also coherently with predictions derived from gender role theory about the reduction of the impact of gender stereotypes when men and women occupy similar social positions. On the one hand, high-status participants defined the crisis in more abstract terms than low-status participants. On the other hand, high-status men hold a more proactive style of coping with the crisis than other participants, especially women. The discussion focuses on the role of social representations theory in understanding the relationships between gender, status and economic behavior, providing insights into how gender equality might be improved.

Keywords : Economic crisis; Social representations; Social Role Theory; Ethic of care.

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