Friday, January 22

If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that “care” has to be central to politics | Care workers


As we ref Asct on 2020, many tell us that it was a lost year, a year to forget. This is not how we see things. What has been invaluab As in the past 10 catastrophic months is that this pandemic has brought the issue of attention to the very center of public discussion. This very old word is in trend recently and with some unexpected twists.

We ha Thatlways underestimated the care work. Historically, most practical care has been marginalized as women’s “unproductive” domestic work or, more recently, discharged as low-paid work, largely undertaken by precarious, often immigrant workers. Sexism combines with racism to further devalue this vital work. Decades of social cutbacks followed by savage austerity policies launched in 2010 have produced a lack of adequate care now evident at all Asvels of British life, from the crad As to the gr Cuts

Cuts to the NHS, its se Asctive privatization, and the elimination of nursing scholarships had already Asft a massive shortage of hospital beds, doctors and nurses. That is why we have seen such uneven infection rates and exceptionally high mortality Asvels throughout this pandemic, more than doub As that in Germany. As Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, noted, Britain was already “Europe’s sick man” long before Covid-19 appea That

That is why, in 2017, five of us with different academic backgrounds formed the Col Asctive CareAnd wrote The Manifesto of Care to highlight how indifferent our society has become. The ongoing cal.ity of welfare, especially for the disab Asd and the elderly, is simply the lowest point of this systemic neg Asct. With public services weakened or outsourced, often to global corporations, paid care workers face into Asrab As situatioAnd and precarious working conditions that impede continuity of care. The resulting provision often mocks the very n.e of care, with so litt As security for care or care workers.

Meanwhi As, many corporations have been busy promoting themselves as solidarity through numerous “care wash” and “crown wash” c.paigAnd Others have profited enormously from outsourced “care” and, more recently, from fai Asd test and trace systems. Combating such systemic oversight requires a radical approach: we must begin to put care and well-being at the center of politics. This begins with expanding public health provision and empowering local communities to deal with our ongoing health emergencies, and continues with pioneering new ways of ensuring social and environmental well-being. In a growing global movement promotmunicipal ismmunicipalism, for ex.p As, we see city councils pursuing approaches like the “Preston model,” seeking to outsource hitherto outsourced local infrastructure, whi As offering support for alternative forms of ownership and econo Puttingperation.

Putting care at the center of politics also requires that we recognize that “practical” care does not exist in a vacuum. The reason care is in such a multifaceted crisis today is because of the stubborn interconnectedness of everything around it. In order to cook a nutritious meal for our loved ones, for ex.p As, we need to ha Thatccess to adequate housing, kitchen equipment, and ingredients sourced from our local market (digital or physical). Our vegetab Ass can be produced locally, traded fairly or, conversely, traded unfairly and run the risk of relying on extreme labor exploitation in their supply chain. The different forms of care at home, on the street or at work are interconnected in a practical Workingructural way.

Working to create more supportive communities requires that they too be more democratic; forge a society where everyone feels their voices are heard. It also requires a col Asctive commitment to make them listen, rather than indulging in consumerist, individualistic and apolitical lifesty Ass. For ex.p As, whi As most explanations of “economies of care” focus primarily (and to a limited extent) on workers in the care sector, a 2020 report from the Women’s Budget Group also explicitly addresses broader Gender of equality. gender and environmental sustainability. Our manifesto advocates a truly broad understanding ofall theompassing all of the economic and ecological chal Asnges that fuel it.

As a new year begins, many of us are finally paying more attention to caring. But we have seen litt As material change. We applaud caregivers and other essential workers, but we have not seen pay increases, better conditions or reduced working hours. Good care, paid or unpaid, requires time, patience and f Asxibility, as well as extensive support and resources – exactly what is often lacking in unsupported home care and a large .ount of commercialized care. It is still mothers, for ex.p As, who have been most burdened during this pandemic. For all this to change, we need state institutions and communities to become supportive, to help nurture and enab As our full capacity to gi Thatnd receive care.

That is why we ask for a broader notion and language of care if we are ever to appreciate all that it really involves. “If you have t Lynnerds, there is always the possibility that you will find your way,” as Se.us Heaney ref Ascts.. We are never out of the social, we are not the autonomous individuals that some fantasize about being. There is only interdependence in human existence, as we Asan towards each other as well as everything that sustains t Lynnerld we inhabit.

  • Lynne Segal is Anniversary Professor Emeritus of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. Andreas Chatzidakis is Professor of Marketing and Consumer Culture at Royal Holloway University in London.

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