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AEF Kyle Scott
February 22 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
APPLIED ETHICS FORUM · DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
‘Care under capitalism’
Kyle Scott (University of California Los Angeles)
Thursday 22 Feb 2024 • 5:00pm–7:00pm • LIBR–201
Abstract: I argue that the structure of present-day work under capitalism makes it exceedingly difficult to care. Drawing on recent work in feminist philosophy and the ethics of care, I argue that to truly care for something is to be disposed to act simply for it, regardless of whether doing so benefits oneself. You therefore cannot care for just any reason. Caring for someone because he is in need is a genuine expression of care, while caring only because you are paid to do so is not. Yet, in the contemporary world, many people are paid to care: nurses, teachers, and social workers, to name just a few. Still others find themselves providing care as ‘compensation’ for the economic support of a partner, family member, or spouse. Such conditions are inhospitable to genuine care, which requires acting from intrinsic—as opposed to merely economic—motivations. I show how this situation opens up a distinctive and particularly insidious form of alienation. In alienated industrial work, Marx observed, ‘the worker’s own physical and mental energy, his personal life…is turned against him’. But nowhere is this more evident than in contemporary care work, in which the worker must often deploy her most intimate emotions and feelings in addition to her physical and bodily energies. In contemporary care work, the potentially enriching acts of meeting others’ personal and emotional needs are instrumentalized into mere means of ‘making a living’. This is both a structural impediment to the provision of genuine care, and a source of widespread alienation. The paper thus identifies, at the root of the present-day malaise of work, a yawning gap between the reasons society offers us to care, and the reasons true care requires.