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Policy and the Design of Institutions

In Chapter 9, Elizabeth Brake argues for the claim that care is work and that conceptualizing it as such can remedy the exploitation of caregivers. Although caring relationships are a good in human life, they can also be the source of exploitation, and therefore treating caregiving as work can protect caregivers from exploitation. She distinguishes three types of care: material caretaking, taking care of physical and material needs; emotional caring labor or emotional support; and attitudinal care, or “subjectively experienced benevolent attention and concern.” Because emotional and attitudinal caring can harm the self of the caregiver, women’s disproportionate caring creates harms to the self. Treating care as work means that people who engage in caring can have some of the legal protections offered to workers, such as sick days, but Brake notes that paying caregivers could be impractical. Her chapter builds on Sandra Bartky’s (1990) important concept of the “epistemic lean,” which describes how women lose the self by prioritizing the perspective of men, and identifies its relevance for liberalism, arguing that the solution to the distinctive harm Bartky identified is to treat care - including emotional care - as work.

Maxine Eichner, in Chapter 10, argues that thriving families - families that are, among other things, able to see to the developmental and caregiving needs of their members - should be a main concern of the state in a liberal society. Eichner offers an illuminating historical account of the relationship of families to markets, from the 19th-century “household economy” to the precarious situation of many families in contemporary industrialized capitalism. She then provides a rich description of the many ways in which, in our society today, families are harmed by market forces, in particular harmed in ways that systematically interfere with families’ caregiving for the youngest children. In the face of this harm, what is called for is family-supportive regulation of markets and a variety of other “pro-family policies” - for example publicly subsidized family leave, flexible work schedules, public investment in child care, and economic support for families with limited incomes. After all, Eichner explains, markets are but one part of the larger economy “whose job, properly conceived, is to ensure that goods and resources support the wellbeing of citizens.”

Finally, in Chapter 11, Gina Schouten explores a tension between what she calls “gender egalitarian” and “distributive egalitarian” policy proposals, both of which feminist liberals are likely to endorse. While policies like universal basic income promote distributive justice by addressing poverty, under current conditions such policies (which provide income untethered to employment outside of the home) could erode women’s attachment to paid work and thus reinforce the gendered division of labor. At the same time, policies that aim directly at undermining the gendered division of labor - gender-neutral parental leave policies, for example - do little (though more than you might expect) to address serious problems of poverty and are arguably most valuable to wealthier women. One might think that the mandate to remedy the gendered division of labor derives from the value of equality of opportunity and thus that, as a practical matter, it should take a back seat to remedying the more dire problem of poverty. While ultimately agreeing with this ordering of direness, Schouten shows that the gendered division of labor threatens more than mere equality of opportunity. She argues that the “institutional assumption that one’s sex will dictate the work that one does” runs afoul of “the criterion of reciprocity” in Rawlsian political liberalism, which sets limits on coercive measures the state may undertake in pursuit of just arrangements. One upshot of Schouten’s argument is that policies that address poverty without risking the further entrenchment of the gendered division of labor should be preferred.

Distinctions in Liberal Theory and Considerations on Its Whiteness

Feminist and antiracist critics of liberalism have argued that much of what we want to examine, criticize, and remedy falls out of view in liberal political philosophy. The distinction between what’s public and what’s private, central to liberalism, is often blamed for this, as is liberal political philosophers’ preoccupation with ideal theory rather than diagnosing actually existing injustice and exploring what we might do about it here and now. This supposed liberal failure is also sometimes blamed on the turn which Rawls took in his later work, and which many followed, from what he called “comprehensive” to what he called “political liberalism” (Rawls 1993, 196). We share the belief that taking the fact of dependency seriously is important for moving liberal political philosophy forward, but our approaches to liberalism and dependency care are different in salient ways. In the next section, Baehr explores the public- private distinction, the distinction between comprehensive and political liberalism, and the importance of political injustice claims to what, following Ruth Abbey, she calls “transformative liberalism” (Abbey 2011, 261-265).10 Then Bhandary explores the distinction between ideal and nonideal theory and points the way toward disciplinary and methodological requirements for anti-oppression liberalisms that incorporate care and take meaningful steps to address race and intersectionality.

 
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