Interview on December 11th, 2011
Christa Schnabl is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Social at the University of Vienna, and currently the Vice Rector of the University of Vienna. View C.V. of Christa Schnabl.
1. Where are you working at this moment?
I am Associate Professor at the Institute for Social Ethics of the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Vienna. From 2007 until 2011 I am also appointed as vice-president of the University of Vienna (Austria) and therefore I am on leave from my educational and research work.
2. Can you tell us about your research and its relation to the ethics of care?
As a social ethicist I am mainly interested in anchoring socioethically the impulses that emerge in an ethics of care. I therefore focus on the activities and demands from a societal perspective, rather than on the immediate and personal relation of care. Put differently, I am interested less in the inner perspective of caring, and more in the outer perspective on care and the social responsibility to care.
3. How did you get involved into the ethics of care?
It was gender ethics that led me to care ethics. I learned to recognize care as a key concept for the further development of modern societies, because in it many areas of life come together. The questions of care unite questions of family policy, social policy, health care policy, gender policy and economic policy. This recognition only arose later on, after first having held care as a peripheral theme….
4. How would you define ethics of care?
That is difficult, because I do not consider myself a care ethicist in the first place. I consider care a central topic area of ethics. However, I want to stress that the ethical principle of care should be connected to the principle of justice, and not be elaborated as a separate, special ethic. An ethic of care that puts questions of care and caring central, should in my view be more broadly orientated.
5. What is the most important thing you learned from the ethics of care?
I have learned to see the implications of drawing into the ethical reflection those themes that are invisible within the public sphere. Ethics is not a construction of reflective thoughts in itself, but must always reflect upon everyday fields of reference. For human experience does lead to different plausibilities, which effect both the reflection and the special sensitivity for themes that emerge. Moreover, the naturalness of ethical systems is questioned.
6. Whom do you consider to be your most important teacher(s) in this area?
To me certain theoritical lines have been more important than any specific teacher. For instance, there is a theoretical line of individual ethical questions as well as a line of political ethics, and theoretics can be divided accordingly. Thus, Eva Feder Kittay, Herta Nagl-Docekal, Herlinde Pauer-Studer, but also Axel Honneth and Emmanuel Levinas focus upon care and the individual, and on the other hand Joan Tronto, Selma Sevenhuijsen, Susan Moller Okin have their focal point upon the political and ethical aspects of care.
7. What works in the ethics of care do you see as the most important?
It is widely acknowledged that Carol Gilligan’s „In A Different Voice“ , which appeared in the early eighties, is the initial igniter of the entire care ethics debate. Her theoretical impulses have started different philosophical and ethical debates and further developments.
8. Which of your own books/articles should we read?
My book „Gerecht sorgen. Grundlagen einer sozialethischen Fürsorge“ is my most exhaustive work on the connection of the debates of care and justice, considered from a social-ethical point of view. A publication list with German articles can be found on:
9. What are important issues for the ethics of care in the future?
The question of how care can be implemented within social theory and societal considerations is a real challenge. How can the care area be politically embedded? What models and possibilities are being given, that may help changing the recognition and distribution of care work?
10. In Tilburg our ambition is to promote ethics of care nationally and internationally. Do you have any recommendations or wishes?
My wish would be, that a platform or network is established, which is not only accessible for researchers and the academic world, but also integrates people who are politically and practically involved. That would be a step towards „politicizing“ the subject.