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Care Ethics and Public Policy: A Holistic, Transformative Approach

  • Kari Greenswag

Policy documents are a source of authority in both a legal and a normative sense. When policy documents make particular assumptions about care work requiring private, not public, consideration, this can push care, its concerns, and those who give and receive care out of the public sphere. This marginalization of care work, however, is ethically suspect, and as such I argue here that we should use the feminist ethics of care as a way to analyze current policy and guide the creation of future policy to ensure more ethically robust policy statements. I advocate for the use of care ethics in addition to human rights ethically guided public policy, which prioritizes the effort to implement human rights standards through government action. My claim is that human rights should not be our sole basis for moral and political reasoning, especially in the policy process. Policy shapes our lives, and how we live in relation to particular others. Care ethics can and should be used as an ethical guide for the policy process because it can bring to the fore how institutional patterns of power shape our relations, an analysis that human rights theories are not, in general, built to undertake.

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Politics & Gender
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