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Introduction to Caring for Liberalism

As soon as care ethics' appeared on the scene, it was construed as a criticism of, and an alternative to, liberal theories of justice. Care ethics’ conceptions of the moral domain and moral persons were commonly understood as incompatible with liberal accounts. The thought was that moral and political philosophers would have to take sides, and a literature developed evaluating the merits of each.2 Eva Kittay’s groundbreaking Love’s Labor (1999) construed the challenge of care ethics differently. Kittay suggested that any theory of justice must take on board a fundamental insight of care theory, namely what she calls “the fact of dependency” (1995, 10): that all human beings begin life as utterly helpless infants and episodically rely on the care of others even as adults for survival; that many human beings depend on the care of others throughout their lives; as well as that individuals who provide hands-on caregiving often become dependent on support from others. Acknowledging the fact of dependency is, on Kittay’s view, a criterion of adequacy for any serious approach to political philosophy.3 Many have argued that standard approaches to liberal political philosophy fail to satisfy this criterion.4

We agree with Kittay’s dependency criterion of adequacy and thus hold that including dependency in liberal political philosophy is a necessary condition for its viability. In other work, each of us has proposed how we might include dependency in liberal political philosophy,5 but in this volume, we seek to open the range of solutions, frameworks, and considerations that might be used to address dependency care within liberalism. Taken in its entirety, this volume is not committed to any one form of ethical or moral theory. The chapters within it span a range of theories - utilitarian, Kantian, Rawlsian contract theory, and novel forms of liberalism - developing them in ways that better address the human need for dependency care.6

Caring for Liberalism is the first book to present multiple philosophers in one volume working to develop forms of liberalism that address dependency.7 In doing so, the volume contributes to the project of thinking systematically and foundationally about how to properly situate the fact of dependency in liberal political theory. We begin this introduction with overviews of the chapters. Following the overviews, Baehr briefly explores how the public/private distinction and the distinction between comprehensive and political liberalism play themselves out in the chapters; she then offers some reflections on the importance of political injustice claims arising out of lived experience and articulated by social movements. Bhandary then briefly explores how the distinction between ideal and nonideal theory figures in the chapters and concludes by discussing the importance of race, and of women of color, as a category of analysis in liberal care theory.

The Chapters

The chapters situate the fact of dependency in a variety of ways. The result is a set of philosophical innovations at the level of concepts, theory design, institutional design, and policy, as well as novel readings of foundational texts in the history of political philosophy. To aid readers in locating work most relevant to their concerns, and to provide a pathway through the volume, we have sorted the chapters into four clusters.

A first cluster of chapters (Part I) focuses on key figures in the history of political philosophy: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill. A second cluster (Part II) presents arguments as to how caring liberals should - and should not - think about individualism, autonomy, and freedom. A third cluster (Part III) draws on explicitly Rawlsian resources for thinking about justice and caregiving. And finally, a fourth cluster (Part IV) focuses on policy and the design of institutions, exploring the family, policy protections for carers as workers, and the gendered division of labor.

Any single chapter might evaluate the role of dependency care in liberalism in more than one way and contribute to more than one conceptual revision. Readers should note, too, that there is innovation in concepts and theory design in many of the chapters and that many of the chapters discuss policy and the design of institutions. But just as a person might take a tour of a town focusing on the homes of literary figures and another might take a botany tour, the organizing logic is but one map through the chapters of this volume. We have sorted the chapters into parts to aid the scholar’s project of locating the work most relevant to their concerns. For students of dependency theory and liberalism, we recommend reading the entire volume. Flowever, readers with more specific interests may find the organization helpful.

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