Peace Science Digest

The Feminist Revolution: An Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Militarist Case for Rethinking Foreign Policy

By Irina Militaru

This essay was selected for publication as part of the War Prevention Initiative’s Feminist Foreign Policy Essay “Un-Contest”. 

Let’s not beat around the bush. The world is on fire, and it got like this because we never questioned the legitimacy of business and profit maximization as the main driver of global politics. It is impossible to separate capitalism from its violent roots—slavery and racism,[1] witch-hunting and patriarchy[2]—from its continued disregard for human dignity,[3] or from its incessant crimes against the environment.[4] In these conditions, can we even be surprised white supremacy is still alive and well?

The organizing principle of capital has always been exploitation, and that lies at the basis of all human endeavor, including how foreign policy is done. Spritzing some gender and racial diversity in the mix will not change anything—not even in the long-run—unless this core principle is done away with. Feminist foreign policy is necessarily anti-capitalist.

When one thinks of foreign policy, two things tend to come to mind: war and international trade agreements, with a generalized misconception that the latter safeguard peace. I posit that trade agreements cannot effectively stand without the threat of armed conflict as a tacit negotiation tool, since local communities would not tolerate the disproportional power dynamics enabling exploitation if it were not for the constant state of tension fueled by these military threats. The extraction of natural resources, the dramatic alteration of the environment, and the destitution of people constitute the necessary state upon which global trade can build itself and create profit.[5] Under such conditions, taking any action to promote peace would be counter-productive, so instead, trade agreements make a flimsy promise of mutual economic benefit. And then, like vultures over a corpse, corporations swoop in to make good on that promise. A global pandemic hits? Pharma is now flush with cash. Gas prices soaring worldwide? Oil companies make it rain (acid). People lose their homes in natural disasters? Look at all this land that just freed up to make luxury resorts!

One community’s unspeakable tragedy is another white man’s treasure. But what if it wasn’t?

What if our first priority were to ensure not the profit of businesses but the wellbeing of local communities and the environment? What if all that effort we put into making corporations prosper went towards building functional healthcare and education systems, public-owned farms and green energy grids? Why sell our time, labor, and expertise to a job for a salary that is taxed, so that these taxes can be allocated by people who indirectly represent our interests, when we could directly contribute these funds in ways that benefit our local community?

Capital masquerading as feminism isn’t saving anyone. The oppression of women started when society collectively decided that social reproductive labor is less valuable than productive labor,[6] and that breadwinning is a man’s job, while “bread-managing” is female nature. A first step in the right direction is to start paying people who choose to work within the home to secure the wellbeing and quality of life for children, elders, and the community as a whole. A feminist approach to both domestic and international affairs would therefore mean a recognition of the value that care work brings to society and a pro-active initiative to prioritize the health of communities by giving resources and support to those who take care of us. It would certainly aid those who already do that kind of work to be independent and less vulnerable to abuse.

But still, how does this link to foreign policy?

Feminist foreign policy would serve to create a revolutionary cultural shift from individualistic resource-hoarding to a community-oriented mindset, in which wealth is shared between peoples, not corporations, and in which governments cooperate on distribution of existing resources directly to communities who need them rather than appeal to corporations to dispense them at their discretion. Until the idea of profit maximization becomes marginal to human activity, capital will continue to hinder social progress, fuel local tensions, promote international conflict, and destroy the environment.

That is not to say that businesses have an exclusively negative impact on the world. Businesses create value and facilitate community wellbeing. It is multinational corporate greed that puts a strain on local economies and holds governments hostage. It is no coincidence that this chokehold is most strongly felt in countries that are former colonies, while the headquarters of these corporations are almost all situated in the Global North. The cognitive link between corporate capitalism and imperialism is not a novelty.

To even begin to loosen the chokehold, governments must strictly regulate corporate activity and incentivize small local businesses at the expense of fast-paced growth. In the Global North, the objective should be degrowth and sharing resources with the Global South—or even better, giving back those looted over the years.

To ensure this does not hurt local communities, economies should reorient themselves towards the library economy model, in which individuals can access shared commodities and get involved in local decision-making processes, while weekly working hours are halved without the threat of salary reduction. Give people twenty hours back per week, and we all could be enjoying another Renaissance.

Lastly, let’s talk about the military. “Boots on the ground” seems to be a favored response to international crises these days, especially in the Global South, and it is telling that this favor comes most vocally from white supremacists. Historically, how many wars were started to protect free trade outside Europe? I can think of at least two and they both contain the word “opium” in their name. Coercive action with the full force of state violence behind it does not keep trade free but rather forces open markets and reduces said markets’ ability to sustain themselves. Even with all the protectionist tax reforms a government can come up with, it’s still powerless in the face of global supply chains made dirt-cheap at gunpoint. Once armed conflict gets involved to protect commercial interests, it’s hard to still imagine an independent merchant in a junk boat sailing the Indian Ocean for small change.

In the end, militarism is only an ideology, but it is one that feeds off the constant state of armed conflict and crisis. In this regard, it makes good bedfellows with capitalism, as suggested above. Ideally, that level of manpower, research capabilities, and technology that the army disposes of could be used to provide disaster relief and counter the negative impacts of climate change, but as long as militarism exists, and serves a for-profit purpose, the army as an institution will always protect the interests of capital above those of humanity.

Capital, propped up by militarism, breeds the sense of dominion of whiteness and masculinity over anyone else. It lends a semblance of power to white men who like to believe the system works in their favor, as long as they uphold the system’s hegemony. What they fail to realize, though, is that they’re aiding in their own disenfranchisement since capital, in its nature, is built to benefit fewer and fewer people, and those who win the game in the end are only a handful of the uber-rich.

To conclude, feminist foreign policy is a bottom-up approach grounded in strong local communities and sound domestic policies that prioritize the wellbeing of people over the profits of private companies.  It prioritizes community-oriented economic models and guards against predatory ones through government regulations. It promotes shared property, economic degrowth, demilitarization, and anti-consumerism, while incentivizing small businesses and remunerating domestic labor.

Irina Militaru holds an MA in History and Anthropology. She is a global nomad, currently slow-living, writing, and teaching in a small town in Italy. She can be reached at


Bhattacharya, Tithi. Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression. London: Pluto Press, 2017.

Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body, and Primitive Accumulation. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2004.

Federici, Silvia. Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle, 2nd edition. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2012.

Fraser, Nancy. “Contradictions of Capital and Care.” New Left Review 100 (July/August 2016).

Hall, Catherine. “Racial Capitalism: What Is in a Name?” Senior Seminar in Global Humanities Opening Lecture at University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy, November 19, 2019.

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Picador, 2008.

[1]Catherine Hall, “Racial Capitalism: What Is in a Name?” Senior Seminar in Global Humanities Opening Lecture at University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy, November 19, 2019.

[2] Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body, and Primitive Accumulation (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2004).

[3] Nancy Fraser, “Contradictions of Capital and Care,” New Left Review 100 (July/August 2016),

[4]Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Picador, 2008).

[5]Silvia Federici, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle, 2nd edition (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2012).

[6] Tithi Bhattacharya, Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression (London: Pluto Press, 2017).

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