Edited by Barbara Hobson, Jane Lewis and Birte Siim
3. Care: actors, relationships and contexts Arnlaug Leira and Chiara Saraceno1 THE MULTIDIMENSIONAL CARING PUZZLE Until the 1970s, ‘care’ apparently represented few if any theoretical challenges for social research, either as a concept or a social activity. Since then the academic debate about the meaning and contents of terms like ‘care’ and ‘caring’ has ﬂourished. With feminist scholarship as the main driving force, the many threads that make up the relational, symbolic, political and practical tapestry of care and caring relationships have been progressively unravelled. In this process diﬀerent actors have emerged, both on the side of care givers and of care receivers. Not only have needs, interests and conﬂicts of interest been acknowledged, named and contrasted, but locations of care giving and care receiving have been identiﬁed. As the ‘caring deﬁcit’ (Hochschild, 1995), that is, the shortage of resources available for providing care, becomes more widely acknowledged, there is increasing debate about the rights and responsibilities of the care dependent and care providers. The analysis of care, and the actors, relationships and contexts involved, is not a linear or additive process. Rather, it is a reﬂective process shifting in focus of attention, as well as changing in perspective and in levels of analysis. This implies the need to readjust previous insights and acquired knowledge. In doing so, the concept and the vocabulary of care – to paraphrase Ungerson’s (1990) insightful expression – have been expanded, even risking becoming either too generic, or too partial. From this...
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