I’m experimenting with an alternative way of presenting an essay on Troppo that I’ll present as multi-part (in the fine tradition of nineteenth-century novelists!). The concluding Part Two here is preceded by the first part not just where it was first published, but also below so they stay together.
I’ve put the first part in blockquotes for your convenience for a week or two while it’s ‘current’ and will then probably remove this introduction, the arbitrary division into two parts and the blockquotes formatting of the first part.
A couple of days ago I came upon care ethics via Virginia Held’s book The Ethics of Care (2006) with some excitement. The ethics of care grew out of feminism, but I think the issues it raises transcend feminism and I’ll conclude by arguing that in some ways its feminist roots are holding back its potential power. Though of course, it had antecedents, care ethics is associated with Carol Gilligan’s argument that dominant ethical frameworks embody masculine psychology or, if you like, dramaturgy. Gilligan developed her moral theory in contrast to her mentor Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. Gilligan’s In a Different Voice argued that men’s and women’s ethical frames are different. Where men’s ethical frames embodied notions of justice and abstract duties or obligations tested in Kohlberg’s approach, womens’ perspectives privileged empathy and compassion which were defined in concrete relationships. Continue reading
Note: this post has been superseded by the full essay.
A couple of days ago I came upon care ethics via Virginia Held’s book The Ethics of Care (2006) with some excitement. The ethics of care grew out of feminism, but I think the issues it raises transcend feminism and I’ll conclude by arguing that in some ways its feminist roots are holding back its potential power. Though of course, it had antecedents, care ethics is associated with Carol Gilligan’s argument that dominant ethical frameworks embody masculine psychology or, if you like, dramaturgy. Gilligan developed her moral theory in contrast to her mentor Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. Gilligan’s In a Different Voice argued that men’s and women’s ethical frames are different. Where men’s ethical frames embodied notions of justice and abstract duties or obligations tested in Kohlberg’s approach, womens’ perspectives privileged empathy and compassion which were defined in concrete relationships.
Here’s an outline of the structure of ‘care ethics’ in a review of Virginia Held’s book.
Held’s account of the ethics of care starts with a list of five defining features. First, “the focus of the ethics of care is on the compelling moral salience of attending to and meeting the needs of the particular others for whom we take responsibility” (10). Second, from an epistemological perspective the ethics of care values emotions, and appreciates emotions and relational capabilities that enable morally concerned persons in actual interpersonal contexts to understand what would be best. Third, “the ethics of care rejects the view of the dominant moral theories that the more abstract the reasoning about a moral problem, the better because the more likely [to?] avoid bias and arbitrariness, the more nearly to achieve impartiality. The ethics of care respects rather than removes itself from the claims of particular others with whom we share actual relationships” (11). Fourth, the ethics of care proposes a novel conceptualization of the distinction between private and public and of their respective importance. Finally, the ethics of care adopts a relational conception of persons, which is in stark contrast to Liberal individualism.
I don’t know enough to say that this approach is ‘better’ than those it defines itself against, but it certainly speaks to my frustrations with the dominant paradigm – something I expressed in a comment on the Facebook post of Robert Wiblin, one of the (I think) founders of 80,000 hours a charity of which I’m a big fan) which asked “If you only had 3 minutes to give a random person (similar to your social network) advice, what’s the most useful thing you could tell them?” Amid lots of worthwhile tips for life, I wrote this. “Life is not a toy model, a trolley problem or a piece of inspiration porn. It’s life.”. I was trying to convey my unease at the question. It is, of course, a perfectly acceptable question to ask so no criticism was intended. Every discussion must start somewhere – with the universal or the particular, the abstract or the concrete – with the interest being in how each relates to the other.
Still our culture is awash with abstraction, universalism and instrumentalism and as such desperately in need of balancing with precisely the kind of thing that the ethics of care can offer. So here are some introductory reflections. This part concludes with some observations on Adam Smith as the original ‘care ethics’ guy. Subsequent parts at least as currently planned will talk about:
- the implications of this framework for what we’re all assured is the ‘market’ in human services.
- the way in which feminism as an ideological vehicle for women’s interests tends to underplay the wider universal significance I’ve intimated it has above.
Adam Smith and the ethics of care
Adam Smith’s work was built on the ethics of care. He was a very urbane guy, not easily roused to passion. But the two most passionate passages in his whole oeuvre (I’m not too sure what an “oeuvre” is – though I usually have mine poached – but I’m pretty sure it fits right here between the beginning and end of this sentence) are one referring to the tribes of Africa being captured as slaves as “those nations of heroes” and this one: Continue reading
Looks quite interesting
Is American Pet Health Care (Also) Uniquely Inefficient?
by Liran Einav, Amy Finkelstein, Atul Gupta – #22669 (AG HC PE)
We document four similarities between American human healthcare and
American pet care: (i) rapid growth in spending as a share of GDP
over the last two decades; (ii) strong income-spending gradient;
(iii) rapid growth in the employment of healthcare providers; and
(iv) similar propensity for high spending at the end of life. We
speculate about possible implications of these similar patterns in
two sectors that share many common features but differ markedly in
institutional features, such as the prevalence of insurance and of
public sector involvement.
Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (Cth) is a perennial favourite topic for right wing politicians, and conservative pundit Andrew Bolt has never stopped moaning about it ever since he ended up on the wrong side of a Federal Court decision Eatock v Bolt in 2011.
But there is also some respectable legal opinion questioning the constitutionality of section 18C. The most recent is an article by barrister Louise Clegg in the Australian Financial Review a couple of days ago. She fearlessly asserts that the High Court is likely to strike it down when or if a suitable case comes before it. She claims that High Court Chief Justice Robert French gave a thinly veiled warning to that effect in a speech late last year.
I’m nowhere near that certain, but I certainly have some doubts about the constitutionality of section 18C. I mused about them in a long and rather rambling post about 5 years ago, shortly after the Eatock v Bolt decision. The occasion was a speech given at CDU by then Federal Court Chief Justice Patrick Keane, who like French CJ also expressed some careful concerns about proscribing political speech which was merely “offensive” or “insulting”. Keane too is now a Justice of the High Court. His speech was titled “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones but Names Will Never Hurt Me”. Despite that title and his expressed concerns, Keane CJ (as he then was) suggested that perhaps prohibiting free speech which undermined “human dignity” might be democratically (and presumably constitutionally) acceptable. He drew inspiration from American jurisprudential scholar Jeremy Waldron, who advocates human dignity as a suitable constitutional touchstone for courts to employ in reconciling and prioritising competing rights.
The problem with the notion of “human dignity” and its infringement as a determinant of whether political speech can properly be prohibited in a democratic society where political communication is constitutionally protected (e.g. Australia and the US) is that it is potentially just as indeterminate as section 18C in its current terms. In one sense it is a classic example of what Julius Stone called a “category of illusory reference”. A judge who disagrees subjectively with a particular exercise of free speech rights may have no more difficulty in labelling it a breach of “human dignity” than labelling it an act which “is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people”.
In any event, I thought it might be worth reproducing my musings about the constitutionality of section 18C over the fold:
Here’s a skilful pitch for government dollars. Why shouldn’t online appointments with medical health people be funded under Medicare. Why indeed? It’s all slickly done as you’d expect from Change.org. These guys have optimised social campaigns to a high art.
Anyway, it got me thinking along the lines of my recent essay on human services and evidence-based policy that this is all pretty crude. Right now we have a ‘market’ in primary medical services and that market is very heavily subsidised by Medicare. And that subsidy then leads to a situation in which lines are drawn as to what will and won’t be subsidised. Yet the subsidy should be a subsidy with a brain. That is the funding creates a lever by which one should be setting up an evidence base around what works and what doesn’t.
It would be a bad idea to imagine that this could be rolled out in any large way any time very soon. Because the skills don’t exist to convert a market into something richer in generating evidence of efficacy. If you pushed it, you’d get role play. The bureaucrats would try to implement something, but it would all be pretend and would be unlikely to be of much help.
My understanding is that some counselling services work and some don’t. My understanding is also that this is irrelevant to existing funding of counselling through Medicare. So rather than upset the apple cart and change any of this, wouldn’t it be good to identify how much money would fund what the campaign is seeking and then make some similar amount of money available for primary health care services predicated on the idea that a ‘brain’ would be part of the program which would help the system discover what worked, what could be improved and what should not be continued.
A quick placeholder for something more substantial hopefully soon.
Have a look at this ridiculous letter in response to a request to see a copy of the independent scoping study into future ownership options for the ASIC Registry. Judging by other experiences I’m aware of – at the State level in NSW – this is becoming fairly standard. Lucky we’ve finally got a Prime Minister who cares about these things. …