This question pops up in my mind while reading an article in which the author, Frances Woolley, assesses the impact of Feminist economics on the economic profession after 10 years (http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a727695227~db=all~order=page).
According to the abstract: “This article provides a partial assessment through a consideration of citations of the journal Feminist Economics, describing its impact on mainstream economics, heterodox economics, and other disciplines.”
What I find interesting is the conclusion that, measured through citations of the journal in other economic journals, the impact of feminist economics has been marginal on the economic profession as a whole. On the other hand, I think that few would contest the fact that feminist economics has established itself as an emerging sub-discipline in the last 10 years. The explanation of this apparent paradox is that a few individuals deeply committed to the feminist economics research program (for example, most of them are or have been in the editing commitee of Feminist economics) were able to attract enough attention and interest to launch and sustain it. In this regard, one may say that it took very little to create a new sub-discipline.
One issue raised by the article is the fact that, since most of the works devoted to history of successful and unsuccessful economic sub-disciplines have insisted on the content rather than on the context, we know very little on the institutional process that leads a research program to emulate a new sub-discipline. It is a shame since, in the present situation of the history of economics, this kind of knowledge could be quite useful to better undestand our options and our likely institutional future if any…
Post-Scriptum: Frances Woolley’s article has prompted an interesting comment by Fred Lee in a later issue of the same journal (http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a788401976~db=all~order=page), who argued that Feminist economics was not so much a new sub-discipline but a specific research program integrated in an existing sub-discipline (heterodox economics).