The necessity of critique of the critique

Care ethics, originating from feminist theory, started off as a critical approach of what was (and is) perceived as a male oriented (neo)Kantian ethic, that relies on generalization of rules. Since then, care ethics has developed its own critical insights (into relationality etc.). Yet it has its weaknesses

e.g., (1) at present there is no critical analytical insight in organizations (only a strong ethical viewpoint); (2) there is a lot of critique with regard to neoliberalism (Brugère, Barnes, Tronto), yet not a lot of analysis within care ethics of the issues neoliberalism struggles with, broadly the relation politics-economy; that is, there is analysis but outside care ethics; (3) no clear concepts whatsoever of community, of the ‘we’ that is so often used (p.m. “everything we do to …” – Tronto’s definition of care).

As long as care ethics is political ethics (and no general theory of knowledge, nor a mere political theory) there is an orientation for critique, I would argue: care ethicists will want to think along with people, groups, organizations that co-act in a practice of care and care ethicists will want to ask them critical questions in a negative way: do the words, concepts, strategies you use in your practice, does the way you position and act or refrain from acting really any good to what the practice is about? Critique – in care ethics, to mind at least – is less an affair of theory, of better theory as such, and more an issue of fostering a practice towards the good that could emerge in that practice of care (like support, consolation, regaining some kind of bodily and societal wellbeing).

There is a lot going on in social sciences, in philosophy with regard to the aims of critique. Why would one want to be critical? There are propositions to curb, to (re)direct critique, to refrain from or to promote critique. Frans Vosman dives into the importance of being critical within care ethics and get more clarity as to what kind of critique is needed in care ethics, in order to avoid an undertheorized and mainly morally driven critique (Tronto, to his mind) and to avoid an easy cohabitation of care ethical insights with flimsy concepts like co-creation, needs, shared decision making, resilience that cannot pass the test of being realist, of honoring lifeforms of citizens.

See Frans Vosman’s lecture below


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