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From the Rational to the Relational: an exploration of an ethic of care Irene Stevens (SIRCC) Laura Steckley (GSSW) Mark Smith (University of Edinburgh)

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Presentation on theme: "From the Rational to the Relational: an exploration of an ethic of care Irene Stevens (SIRCC) Laura Steckley (GSSW) Mark Smith (University of Edinburgh)"— Presentation transcript:

1 From the Rational to the Relational: an exploration of an ethic of care Irene Stevens (SIRCC) Laura Steckley (GSSW) Mark Smith (University of Edinburgh)

2 The Scottish Enlightenment ( ) Hutcheson ( ) argued that humans have natural and disinterested feelings of benevolence which guide their moral acts and an innate "moral sense" which informs their moral judgments : a reaching out for the other, with traditional virtues such as benevolence and generosity

3 The Scottish Enlightenment ( ) Hume ( ) said that although it could be argued that morality is founded on reason, we also have feelings of approval or disapproval about our actions. This shows that sentiment is also part of the human condition. The connection between reason and sentiment, driven by hedonism was the essence of morality

4 The Scottish Enlightenment ( ) Smith ( ) tried to marry the views of Hutcheson and Hume. ‘Man, conscious of his own weakness, and of the need which he has for the assistance of others, rejoices whenever he observes that they adopt his own passions, because he is then assured of that assistance; and grieves whenever he observes the contrary, because he is then assured of their opposition.’

5 Kant and universal ethics ‘Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law’ (Kant) Universal ethics ‘Social work is legitimated by state authority. Social workers cannot give priority to their private judgement of client actions over key principles of law and accepted morality’ (Clark)

6 Some consequences Bureaucratisation Managerialism Professionalisation ‘What works’ and ‘Best value’ agendas

7 Critique of the rational approach The consequences of the rational such as managerialism threaten the caring dimension of social work There should be a re-engagement with the ideas of care A care ethic can inform the modernising agenda Offered a feminist critique of managerialism (Parton and Meagher, 2004)

8 What is feminism? Feminism was established so that unattractive women could have easier access to the mainstream of society. Just look at the history of feminism if you doubt the truth. Rush Limbaugh, 2005 I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is; I only know people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute Rebecca West, 1913

9 What is feminism? Feminism…encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. Pat Robertson, 1992 Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. Bumper sticker, date unknown

10 In A Different Voice Carol Gilligan Assistant to Kohlberg Girls tended not to fit model – Thus deemed morally less developed than their male counterparts. Raised Questions – Voice and relationship – Psychological processes and theory, particularly theories in which men’s experience stands for all of human experience.

11 Reframing questions…making the relational realities explicit Boys and Men Overriding focus on creating and maintaining boundaries Separation Use of universals and reason to resolve moral quandaries. Girls and Women Overriding focus on creating and maintaining connection Relational order Use of context, particulars and feeling in resolving moral quandaries.

12 Feminist conceptions of moral problems Are contextual and narrative Arise from conflicting responsibilities Are grounded in relationships Deeply concerned with the activity of care “Relationship then requires a kind of courage and emotional stamina which has long been a strength of women, insufficiently noted and valued (Gilligan, 1982, p.xix).”

13 Casting a feminist light on managerialism Based upon Distance Control Rules for decision-making (e.g. risk assessment, cost-benefit analysis) Regulation Monitoring Assessment Performance

14 Moral Boundaries Within current moral boundaries, “any account of morality that draws upon emotion, daily life and political circumstance will necessarily seem corrupted by non-rational and idiosyncratic incursions within this world (Tronto, 1993, p.10).”

15 Tronto’s Identified Boundaries Disconnect The political from the moral Moral thought from moral action The rational from the sentimental

16 Phases of Caring Caring about Taking care of Care-giving Care-receiving Both at micro and macro levels, an ethic of care can cast light on problems of power and difference, and help in overcoming characteristic dilemmas related to care.

17 Problems with universal ethics(1) ‘a totality of rules, norms, principles, equally applicable to everyone and to every rational thinking person.’ (Moss and Petrie 2002) Can’t deal with difference/ambiguity yet… ‘human reality is messy and ambiguous’ (Bauman 1993) Totalising

18 Problems with universal ethics(2) ‘treating science as an Aladdin’s lamp which could be overexploited with impunity, and which could be counted on to solve all social problems without itself giving rise to any.” (Ferrier in Davie 1991 p.82) Nazi Germany is the legitimate heir to the Enlightenment (Gray)

19 Postmodern ethics Ethics as construct of history and culture (Foucault) ‘The foolproof - universal and unshakably founded - ethical code will never be found; having singed our fingers once too often…we now know that a non- ambivalent morality, an ethics that is universal and ‘objectively founded’ is a practical impossibility; perhaps also an oxymoron..’(Bauman 1993) Critique of postmodern ethics - reduced to mere aesthetics Critique confuses ethics for morality Re-personalising ethics

20 The call to care Am I my Brother’s Keeper? Hutcheson, Smith; moral sentiment Logstrup; the ‘unspoken command’ to care Maier from ‘ care to caring care - our moments of glory, our Camelots’ Levinas; Ethics as first philosophy - I care before I think

21 Levinas The autonomous, rational, subject grasps, assimilates and makes the other into the same Threatens alterity with ‘totalitarianism of the same’ Alterity is transcendent/unknowable an ethic of an encounter/an ethic of responsibility The face - ‘the face before me summons me…’ Le face a face sans intermediare Responsibility is infinite No reciprocity Freedom comes from affirmation of other, not self Heteronomy rather than autonomy

22 The difference between universal and care ethics ‘The ethics of care is concerned with responsibilities and relationships rather than rules and rights; it is bound to concrete situations, rather than being formal and abstract; and it is a moral activity rather than a set of principles to be followed.’ (Sevenhuisjen 1999 in Moss and Petrie 2002)

23 Practising an ethic of care ‘getting oneself to attend to the reality of individual other persons…while not allowing one’s own needs, bias, fantasies (conscious and unconscious), and desires regarding the other persons to get in the way of appreciating his or her particular needs or situation…(Blum 1994) Ethical and moral comportment evolves and unfolds within the context of relationship and is created within relationship (Ricks and Bellefeuille 2003)

24 Ethics and social work (1) Am I my brothers keeper? (Bauman 2000) ‘moral assessment has been replaced by the procedural execution of rules’ ‘new capitalism’ calls for individualism, instrumental rationality, flexibility, short-term engagement, de- regulation and the dissolution of established relationships and practices, caring relationships …are predicated on an expressive rather than instrumental relationship to others (based on) trust, commitment over time and a degree of predictability (Brannan and Moss 2003)

25 Ethics and social work (2) ‘the daily practice of social work (is made) ever more distant from its original ethical impulse; the objects of care turned more and more into the specimens of legal categories and the process of ‘effacing the face’ endemic to all bureaucracy, (is) set in motion.’

26 Ethics and social work (3) When procedural execution takes over from moral assessment as the guide to job performance, one of the most conspicuous and seminal consequences is the urge to make the rules more precise and less ambiguous that they are, to taper the range of possible interpretations..’ ‘For the ethical world, however, ambivalence and uncertainty are its daily bread and cannot be stamped out without destroying the moral substance of responsibility…”

27 Conclusion ‘We are not moral thanks to society (we are only ethical and law-abiding thanks to it); we live in society, we are society, thanks to being moral’ (Bauman 1993) ‘There is nothing reasonable about taking responsibility, about caring and being moral. Morality has only itself to support it: it is better to care than to wash one’s hands, better to be in solidarity with the unhappiness of the other than indifferent’ (Bauman 2000) Act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly


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