Handbook of Research on Gender and Economic Life
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Handbook of Research on Gender and Economic Life

Edited by Deborah M. Figart and Tonia L. Warnecke

The Handbook illuminates complex facets of the economic and social provisioning process across the globe. The contributors – academics, policy analysts and practitioners from wide-ranging areas of expertise – discuss the methodological approaches to, and analytical tools for, conducting research on the gender dimension of economic life. They also provide analyses of major issues facing both developed and developing countries. Topics explored include civil society, discrimination, informal work, working time, central bank policy, health, education, food security, poverty, migration, environmental activism and the financial crisis.
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Chapter 5: Gender and caring

Julie A. Nelson


‘Care’ can, in one sense, refer to activities such as childcare or nursing. Such activities further the development of another, usually in a face-to-face and personal way. Care recipients are typically people who could not flourish without it, such as the very young or ill. Another meaning of ‘care’ is that it is a motivation based on concern for someone or something outside of oneself. There is a general sense that ‘care activities’ are of highest quality when accompanied by, and motivated by, authentic emotional commitments, or ‘caring feelings’.1How does caring figure into economic life? From the viewpoint of orthodox neoclassical economics, it does not figure in at all. From this viewpoint, economics is centrally defined around the topics of (i) markets in which the goods and services are exchanged for money and (ii) the choice behavior of the rational, autonomous, self-interested agents thought to populate these markets. ‘Economic man’ then, is imagined as a creature who neither needs care nor has any responsibility or motivation to provide it. The model of the economy that, in theory, is created by these creatures is often taken as an accurate portrayal of real-world capitalism and a simple description of a heartlessness that is presumed to be of its essence. As a result, over the centuries, many supporters for a more caring economy have called for the dismantling of individualist capitalism in favor of a more solidaristic state socialism and/or local, nonprofit familial and community systems of cooperation and sharing.

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