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.

Creative Economy & Cultures of Production, Cultures of Creativity, Representation

Practising Hope in the Netherlands

Dr Jonathan Gross

Just three days after the UK left the European Union I travelled to Nijmegen in the eastern Netherlands. I was there to visit the HAN University of Applied Sciences, which holds an annual International Week. This is the opportunity for students to attend workshops offered by academics from across Europe and beyond. I had been asked to provide a session that would appeal particularly to students preparing for a career in social work. This may seem a strange request given that I am based within a department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, and my work addresses questions of cultural policy, politics and participation.

The invitation came from Erik Jansen, an academic based at HAN, whose interests include both social work and art. Erik and I got to know each other via the Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA), including the major conference I helped organise in London in September 2019 – the first time the HDCA has met in the UK.

Creator: Eric Scholten. Copyright: Concept in Beeld

The capability approach is a set of ideas developed by Indian economist Amartya Sen. It began as an intervention within development economics, but the approach has subsequently become influential across a wide range of disciplines. Offering a framework with which to understand ‘prosperity’ beyond GDP, it challenges the assumptions of mainstream economics, asking: what are the lives that people can actually live? These ideas have proven attractive and useful to a wide range of researchers, policymakers and practitioners.

One of the things that makes the HDCA so exciting – and sometimes challenging – is the interdisciplinarity its conferences make possible. People working in areas including economics, philosophy, political theory, human rights, indigenous rights, international development, urbanism, childhood studies and disability studies, to name a few, gather around these ideas.

One strand of my recent research has been to apply the capability approach to cultural policy, to develop new ways of conceptualising what governments are ultimately seeking to achieve when they get involved in culture. Building on these ideas, at the London conference I presented a paper I had shared in various stages of development over the previous year. It addressed the politics of hope, and it was this research that Erik was keen for me to share with his students in Nijmegen.

The starting point for the piece is to ask: what is the role of cultural policy at a time of climate emergency and right-wing populism? The paper argues that – notwithstanding its historically junior role within government – cultural policy may have a specific and important part to play during our troubled times. Namely: to create conditions conducive to people narrating their place in the world (individually and collectively), and knowing that their actions matter. In other words, to deliberately promote conditions for hope.

The paper has now been published in the International Journal of Cultural Policy as ‘Practices of hope: care, narrative and cultural democracy’. It includes discussion of a wide range of literature on the nature of hope, and links these ideas to the challenges of responding to our populist moment.

The paper is concerned with practices of hope across several scales – from the micro to the macro – beginning with a case study of one organisation in west London that works with young people on the periphery of the education system. Drawing on this example, I suggest that practices of ‘care’ are crucial to hope. It is when we experience care that we can trust our environments – and it is trust in our environments that enables us to know that our actions matter.

It was a challenge and a pleasure to take these ideas to Nijmegen and design a workshop for students who I had been told would be primarily interested in practical applications. My colleague Nick Wilson has written about creativity as a ‘boundary phenomenon’ – taking place particularly at locations where different identities, disciplines and ways of doing things meet. Being invited to speak with social work students felt like a creative process of that kind: the opportunity to extend my thinking by bringing it into relation with a new set of practices and concerns.

Alongside the workshops, Erik organised a symposium on the theme of hope. This also provided the opportunity for exchanging ideas across disciplinary boundaries. At a time at which borders and boundaries are being ever more strongly enforced, it may seem trite to draw attention to the value of boundary-crossing. Nonetheless, perhaps insights of this kind can bear being repeated a little too often.

Hope is about how we relate to the future and imaginatively project ourselves into it. But in its concern with the future, hope mediates between what’s been and what’s to come. In June 2019 Jessica Rapson and I organised a symposium at CMCI on these themes, Politics of Doom, Politics of Hope, during which we heard contributions from disciplines including cultural studies, psychosocial studies, memory studies and utopian studies. One of the aims of that event was, precisely, to start a conversation on these ideas that is both interdisciplinary and connects with activities beyond academia. As I write further on the politics of hope in the coming months, I would be very pleased to hear from others interested in these themes.

During the week in which the UK formerly broke away from the European Union, my trip to Nijmegen confirmed for me – as if I needed the reminder – the role that border-crossing can play in generating new possibilities. In telling new stories of ourselves during uncertain times, opening new futures, the first step may often be to create the conditions of trust in which to safely bridge some boundaries together.