Care

Glass heart gently cupped in open hands

The activities that constitute care are crucial for human life. We defined care in this way: Care is “a species activity that includes everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our “world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web” (Fisher and Tronto, 1990, p. 40).

Several aspects of this definition of care are noteworthy: First, we describe care as a “species activity,” a philosophical term we use because it suggests that how people care for one another is one of the features that make people human. Second, we describe care as an action, as a practice, not as a set of principles or rules. Third, our notion of care contains a standard, but a flexible one: We care so that we can live in the world as well as possible. The understanding of what will be good care depends upon the way of life, the set of values and conditions, of the people engaged in the caring practice.

Furthermore, caring is a process that can occur in a variety of institutions and settings.

Care is found in the household, in services and goods sold in the market, in the workings of bureaucratic organizations in contemporary life. Care is not restricted to the traditional realm of mother’s work, to welfare agencies, or to hired domestic servants but is found in all of these realms. Indeed, concerns about care permeate our daily lives, the institutions in the modern marketplace, the corridors of government. Because we tend to follow the traditional division of the world into public and private spheres and to think of caring as an aspect of private life, care is usually associated with activities of the household. As a result, caring is greatly undervalued in our culture- in the assumption that caring is somehow “women’s work,” in perceptions of caring occupations, in the wages and salaries paid to workers engaged in provision of care, in the assumption that care is menial. One of the central tasks for people interested in care is to change the overall public value associated with care. When our public values and priorities reflect the role that care actually plays in our lives, our world will be organized quite differently.

An Ethic of Care on JSTOR

‘The ethic of care, then, both elevates care to a central value in human life and recognizes that care requires a complicated process of judgment. People need to make moral judgments, political judgments, technical judgments, and psychological judgments in their everyday caring activities. Caring, then, is neither simple nor banal; it requires know-how and judgment, and to make such judgments as well as possible becomes the moral task of engaging in care. In general, care judgments require that those involved understand the complexity of the process in which they are enmeshed. Caring involves both rational explications of needs and sympathetic appreciation of emotions. It requires not an abstraction from the concrete case to a uni versal principle, but an explication of the “full story.” Yet, at the same time, those engaged in care practices need to be able to place some distance from their own version of what is happening and other perspectives.

An Ethic of Care on JSTOR

 “An ethic of justice focuses on questions of fairness, equality, individual rights, abstract principles and the consistent application of them. An ethic of care focuses on attentiveness, trust, responsiveness to need, narrative nuance and cultivating caring relations.” 

The Ethics of Care as Moral Theory | The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, and Global | Oxford Academic

‘The ethic of care, then, both elevates care to a central value in human life and recognizes that care requires a complicated process of judgment. People need to make moral judgments, political judgments, technical judgments, and psychological judgments in their everyday caring activities. Caring, then, is neither simple nor banal; it requires know-how and judgment, and to make such judgments as well as possible becomes the moral task of engaging in care. In general, care judgments require that those involved understand the complexity of the process in which they are enmeshed. Caring involves both rational explications of needs and sympathetic appreciation of emotions. It requires not an abstraction from the concrete case to a uni versal principle, but an explication of the “full story.” Yet, at the same time, those engaged in care practices need to be able to place some distance from their own version of what is happening and other perspectives.

An Ethic of Care on JSTOR

An ethic of justice focuses on questions of fairness, equality, individual rights, abstract principles, and the consistent application of them. An ethic of care focuses on attentiveness, trust, responsiveness to need, narrative nuance, and cultivating caring relations. Whereas an ethic of justice seeks a fair solution between competing individual interests and rights, an ethic of care sees the interests of carers and cared-for as importantly intertwined rather than as simply competing. Whereas justice protects equality and freedom, care fosters social bonds and cooperation.

These are very different emphases in what morality should consider. Yet both deal with what seems of great moral importance. This has led many to explore how they might be combined in a satisfactory morality. One can persuasively argue, for instance, that justice is needed in such contexts of care as the family, to protect against violence and the unfair division of labor or treatment of children. One can also persuasively argue that care is needed in such contexts of justice as the streets and the courts, where persons should be treated humanely, and in the way education and health and welfare should be dealt with as social responsibilities. The implication may be that justice and care should not be separated into different “ethics,” that, in Sara Ruddick’s proposed approach, “justice is always seen in tandem with care.”20

The Ethics of Care – Google Books

An extended effort to integrate care and justice is offered by Diemut Bubeck. She makes clear that she “endorses the ethic of care as a system of concepts, values, and ideas, arising from the practice of care as an organic part of this practice and responding to its material requirements, notably the meeting of needs.” Yet her primary interest is in understanding the exploitation of women, which she sees as tied to the way women do most of the unpaid work of caring. She argues that such principles as equality in care and the minimization of harm are tacitly, if not explicitly, embedded in the practice of care, as carers whose capacities and time for engaging in caring labor are limited must decide how to respond to various others in need of being cared for. She writes that “far from being extraneous impositions … considerations of justice arise from within the practice of care itself and therefore are an important part of the ethic of care, properly understood.”22 The ethics of care must thus also concern itself with the justice (or lack of it of the ways the tasks of caring are distributed in society. Traditionally, women have been expected to do most of the caring work that needs to be done; the sexual division of labor exploits women by extracting unpaid care labor from them, making women less able than men to engage in paid work. “Femininity” constructs women as carers, contributing to the constraints by which women are pressed into accepting the sexual division of labor. An ethic of care that extols caring but that fails to be concerned with how the burdens of caring are distributed contributes to the exploitation of women, and of the minority groups whose members perform much of the paid but ill-paid work of caring in affluent households, in day care centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and the like.

The Ethics of Care as Moral Theory | The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, and Global | Oxford Academic

This whole IDEA…that you are an independent subject navigating the world, SEPARATE from everyone else around you… is a complete, delusion. You are one person… that’s part of an intricate web of relationships ALL AROUND you, that MAKE your existence even possible. Your family, your friends, your coworkers, your community, everyone that maintains society…Virginia Held says the only reason anyone could POSSIBLY THINK that they’re actually independent is BECAUSE of this network of people that take care of the things you take for granted that ALLOW you to CONTINUE in this delusion.

Episode #168 – Introduction to an Ethics of Care — Philosophize This!
Episode #168 -Transcript — Philosophize This!

Joan Tronto writes that implicit within ALL care dynamics is the reality of vulnerability and inequality. Whenever there’s a situation where there is one person being cared for…and another person that’s providing care…that INSTANTLY creates a power discrepancy. Even in situations where neither party RECOGNIZES the vulnerability!

The truth about navigating REAL LIFE as a human being…is that inequalities and power dynamics exist in practically EVERY SITUATION that we FIND ourselves in. And WHENEVER there’s a discrepancy in power…it creates the potential for ABUSE. Joan Tronto writes that we have to remain vigilant ABOUT that possibility and to understand that people are not “interchangeable” as she says, in these caregiving situations. You can’t just ASSUME you know what’s best for someone without even LISTENING to them.

And REMEMBER what Carol Gilligan said before…that an ethics of care is grounded in voice and relationships, in the importance of everyone having a voice, being listened to carefully and heard with respect.

Episode #168 – Introduction to an Ethics of Care — Philosophize This!
Episode #168 -Transcript — Philosophize This!

Care work makes all other work possible.

Putting care—not just care work, but care—at the center of our economy, our politics, is to orient ourselves around our interdependence.

Care is an organizational structure needed to keep our nation running. It’s, by definition, infrastructure.

Health is at the center of the human experience.

We need a counterculture of care.

I feel that that the fundamental property of humanness is to fill those spaces where humanity has been abandoned with love. Those who would change the system have to begin with love, and with the vision to build geographies of care built from that love.

Reframing is self-care and social change.

Those who are the most sensitive and traumatised and have not lost the ability to extend trust constitute an enormously rich and diverse repository of insights and hold many of the keys needed for co-creating ecologies of care.

Create more anti-ableist spaces. Let’s act to hold ALL spaces accountable for providing care and access to disabled folks with all types of bodies and minds.

We can start building more accessible, care-centered communities now. We can combat ableism now. We can lay the groundwork for a world that works better for all of us.

The philosophers Joan Tronto and Berenice Fisher lay out five key elements of care…virtues to be developed if you wanted to APPLY an ethics of care to things in your life. Think of this as a sort of HOW TO manual for moral maturity UNDER an ethics of care. These virtues IN ORDER are:

  • Attentiveness
  • Responsibility
  • Competence
  • Responsiveness
  • Plurality
Episode #168 – Introduction to an Ethics of Care — Philosophize This!
Episode #168 -Transcript — Philosophize This!

So to an ethics of care…the subject NAVIGATING these moral dilemmas is NOT independent…but instead someone who needs to RECOGNIZE their INTERDEPENDENCE on the world around them… and someone who should consider themselves and their decisions as a PART of that narrative of relationships that extends over time. Every moral decision that we MAKE is going to be in CONSIDERATION of these relationships that make our lives possible. As Carol Gilligan says an ethics of care is: “An ethic grounded in voice and relationships, in the importance of everyone having a voice, being listened to carefully and heard with respect.”

Episode #168 – Introduction to an Ethics of Care — Philosophize This!
Episode #168 -Transcript — Philosophize This!
Let's organize our lives around love and care
Let's write each other letters and call it prayer
Let's congregate in the place that isn't anywhere
At the temple of broken dreams

--Temple of Broken Dreams by Ezra Furman

Further reading,

Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic retired technologist turned wannabe-sociologist. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they