Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Compassion in Contemporary Social Policy: Applications of Virtue Theory

  • MARY ELIZABETH COLLINS (a1), KATE COONEY (a2) and SARAH GARLINGTON (a3)
Abstract

Current academic debate in the social sciences and humanities is revisiting the role of virtue in civic life. This debate is relevant to social policy. We argue that virtue is already an implicit component of policy debates, but that the virtue of compassion has not received sufficient emphasis. To support our argument we review classical and contemporary arguments regarding virtue and its linkage to the ‘good society’; articulate the necessity of compassion and its application to specific policies areas (e.g., domestic violence, welfare, emergency care); and assess how compassion intersects with other virtues in the policy environment. Policy implications are identified including: recognition of the realities of suffering, the need for sufficient administrative infrastructure and trained professionals and an often long-term commitment to work in community settings. Weighing the risks, and the overall challenges of virtuous action, our analysis suggests compassion remains a compelling, yet under-utilised, basis for constructing and implementing policies.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Aristotle (2002), ‘Nicomachean Ethics, Books I–VII’, in Cahn, S. M. (ed.), Classics of Political and Moral Philosophy, New York: Oxford University Press.
Banks, S. and Gallagher, A. (2009), Ethics in Professional Life: Virtues for Health and Social Care, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Barad, J. (2007), ‘The understanding and experience of compassion: Aquinas and the Dalai Lama’, Buddhist–Christian Studies, 27: 1129.
Bartlett, R. C. (2002), ‘Socratic political philosophy and the problem of virtue’, American Political Science Review, 96: 3, 525–33.
Beaudoin, M. N. and Taylor, M. (2009), Responding to the Culture of Bullying and Disrespect: New Perspectives on Collaboration, Compassion, and Responsibility, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Block, F., Korteweg, A. C. and Woodward, K. (2006), ‘The compassion gap in American poverty policy’, Contexts: 5: 2, 1420.
Button, M. (2005), ‘‘A monkish kind of virtue’? For and against humility, Political Theory, 33: 6, 840–68.
Comte-Sponville, A. (2001), A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues, New York: Holt & Co.
Gibson, J. L. (2006), ‘The contributions of truth to reconciliation: lessons from South Africa’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 50: 3, 409–32.
Giddens, A. (1991), Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Hawkins, R. L. (2005), ‘From self-sufficiency to personal and family sustainability: a new paradigm for social policy’, Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 32: 4, 7792.
Hoffman, M. L. (2000), Empathy and Moral Development: Implications for Caring and Justice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hursthouse, R. (1999), On Virtue Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lewis, J. (1995), The Voluntary Sector, the State, and Social Work in Britain: The Charity Organisation Society/Family Welfare Association since 1869, Aldershot: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Lejano, R. P. (2006), Frameworks for Policy Analysis: Merging Text and Context, New York: Routledge.
Lipset, S. M. (1996), American Exceptionalism: A Double-edged Sword, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
MacIntyre, A. (1981), After Virtue, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
Manz, C. C., Cameron, K. S., Manz, K. P. and Marx, R. D. (2008), The Virtuous Organization: Insights from Some of the World's Leading Management Thinkers, Singapore: World Scientific Publishing.
Norman, J. and Ganesh, J. (2006), Compassionate Conservatism: What it is – Why We Need It, London: Policy Exchange.
Nussbaum, M. C. (2001), Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Olasky, M. (2000), Compassionate Conservatism: What it is, What it Does, and How it Can Transform America, New York: The Free Press.
Porter, E. (2006), ‘Can politics practice compassion?’, Hypatia, 21: 4, 97123.
Reilly, R. (2006), ‘Compassion as justice’, Buddhist–Christian Studies, 26: 1331.
Sabl, A. (2005), ‘Virtue of pluralists’, Journal of Moral Philosophy, 2: 2, 207–35.
Sayer, A. (2005), The Moral Significance of Class, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schneider, A. and Ingram, H. (1993), ‘The social construction of target populations: implications for politics and policy’, The American Political Science Review, 87: 2, 334–47.
Slote, M. (2007), The Ethics of Care and Empathy, London: Routledge.
Szostak, R. (2002), ‘Politics and the five types of ethical analysis’, International Journal of Politics and Ethics, 2: 4, 275–90.
Szostak, R. (2005), Unifying Ethics, Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Trattner, W. (1999), From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America, New York: The Free Press.
Urban Institute (2003), Beyond Ideology, Politics, and Guesswork: The Case for Evidence-Based Policy, Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.
Weaver, G. R. (2006), ‘Virtue in organizations: moral identity as a foundation for moral agency’, Organization Studies, 27: 3, 341–68.
White, R. (2008), ‘Rousseau and the education of compassion’, Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42: 1, 3548.
Whitebrook, M. (2002), ‘Compassion as a political virtue’, Political Studies, 50: 529–44.
Wuthnow, R. (1991), Acts of Compassion: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-social-policy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed