Audiences, Participation & Engagement, Creative Economy & Cultures of Production, Representation

Care Manifesto

Manfredi de Bernard and Takao Terui

The Care Manifesto stresses the need for and elaborates on an alternative to the neoliberal principles that regulate both our personal and shared existence. Informed by feminist, antiracist and eco-socialist theories, the authors argue for a radical change in the current understandings of human life, individualist and productivity. They instead argue in favour of an understanding of human life that is motivated by the recognition of the crucial complex interconnectedness of the social world and the fact that we are all dependent on one another, and we should hence care for both those near and distant from us. The manifesto reflects on the irony of the glorified archetypical figure of the productive white man that can conduct an independent life thanks to the paid and unpaid care work bore by others, mostly women and often immigrants. Long before the expansion of market logic and neoliberal politics, such gendered and racialized activity and its values have been undervalued precisely due to their association with womanhood. With many overlaps with Sen and Nussbaum’s capabilities approach and activists for disabled people rights’ claims, independency heavily relies on the fulfilment of, at least, basic needs to allow for the building of human capacity and the possibility for everyone to thrive.

The book elaborates on what ‘to care‘ would mean at different scales, and so reflects on what caring politics, kinships, communities, states, economies look like, imagining a future where people’s survival and thriving are at the core of all plans. Such imaginative effort is sustained through many examples of successful experiments that occurred on several occasions in the past, and occasionally currently occur in different countries and communities.

At a household level, Afro-American “other-mothers” and LGBTQIA+ “families of choice” represent fruitful alternatives to the nuclear family in which women with care work often become overburdened. Whilst these more recent practices show the efficacy in redistributing care work to more than one person, they also demonstrate the joys and efforts of caring, and strengthening of the ties of the wider communities in which people are living in. Guided by carefulness, communities should develop networks of mutual support, scale down social welfare with a grassroots perspective, enhance and prioritise public spaces, share commodities and experiment with innovative means of inclusion and democratic participation. Communities are then part of wider caring states, in which the Keynesian welfare state is integrated with grassroots, co-operative mutual support initiatives. The care rationale requires, in fact, a structural reconsideration of modalities of delivery of the state’s very core aim. It also encourages the fight against gross inequalities and market-delivered solution whilst orienting towards democratically controlled and collectively resourced public services. More broadly, the whole free-market economy is argued to require a radical re-discussion within a capacious perspective, in light of its tendency toward dehumanization and unequal wealth distribution. This universal care is a notion that is inspired by indigenous culture – in particular Native Americans’ – and their kinship-like relation with the environment. Lastly, the concept draws on the current development of world-sized caring relationships which can overcome differences and national borders. This stresses the importance of inter- and supra-national bodies and organisations that aim at facilitating the flourishing of such long-distanced sense of belonging with the distant and the different.

About the authors

To articulate a vision for an alternative, Care Manifesto involves authors with diverse backgrounds including Professor Andreas Chatzidakis (economist, Royal Holloway University of London), Dr Jamie Hakim (media study scholar, University of East Anglia), Professor Jo Littler (cultural study scholar, City University of London), Dr Catherine Rottenberg (literature scholar, University of Nottingham) and Professor Lynne Segal (gender study scholar, Birkbeck, University of London). While they share the same goals and critical perspectives on the ongoing neoliberal discourse on caring, the diversity of authors’ disciplines enrich the discussion on the manifesto. For instance, in the seminar, Professor Chatzidakis illustrated how the concept of the free market and economic mindsets reinforce and reproduce the exploitive condition surrounding care workers. 

You can order the book here.