From the 1970s onwards feminists have been developing and discussing political, philosophical, and economic alternatives under the heading of „care”, putting life and sustaining life at the center of attention.
Care on the one hand, signifies consciousness of dependency, neediness, and relatedness as basic human conditions, and on the other hand, it refers to concrete activities of caring for someone in the widest sense. Care is about „caring for the world” not only in the narrow sense of nursing and social work activities or housework but also by engaging in cultural change.
Care includes all activity conducive to conservation, survival and regeneration of the world and for one’s own being in the world. Care activities include the cultivation of land and hedges, looking after animals and plants, and also political activism, information, research, and development work.
The majority of care activities, such as household, nursing, or farming activities, are situated at the bottom of the current patriarchal order. They are banished to the realm of the private, made invisible, or are delegated to those presumed weaker: persons with a lower social status in the form of poorly paid jobs.
To put care activities at the center of attention and to shape the world from a care perspective leads to a significant shift of conventional emphases as it provokes abandoning a number of well-established concepts and assumptions. The illusion of an independent human existence thereby becomes obsolete. And the significance of traditional institutions such as state, market, and family as well as their interrelations are seen in a different light. This is also true for poorly paid caring activities (in a more narrow sense) demanding more attention such as the wiping away of shit.
New rules have to be developed for all aspects of life:, Attentiveness, responsibility, and empathy are no longer restricted to the private realm but rather recognized in their political significance. The public realm becomes once again a place where people live in „networks of mutual dependency and responsibility” (as Dutch political scientist Selma Sevenhuijsen has put it); a sphere where we can give new things a try and can care for a good life for all together.
„Caring Citizens” is what Sevenhuijsen has called this care perspective based model of society with a new understanding of the state. Public services like child care, care for the elderly, education, health services, and also the police take new shape and gain new meaning if they are part of a „culture of care.”
Many things have yet to be rethought, such as for example how care activities can be adequately remunerated while also taking into account that not all work can be adequately compensated and that we do not want to commodify all work and meaningful activities. Within a great number of projects, initiatives, and lifestyles, for example in childcare groups, alternative schools, intergenerational housing projects, the Russian dacha culture, or urban gardening and community cooking projects, the positive effects of a caring cooperation on a good life for all are already tangible.