Care is not enough—in praise of the political

Stream: Panel 64 - Political Theory: Butler, Precarious Life and the Politics of Care & Philanthropy
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 9.00 am – 10.30 am


The wide ranging international literature on care has been associated with attempts to value social life in ways that foreground interconnection and critique the encroaching spread of competitive instrumentalist individualism. Care has been a means to envisage an alternative direction for social life, indeed an alternative politics, a politics which is often entwined with an awareness of ongoing gender inequality. Care-based responses have become a means to developing analytical and practical political strategies of resistance in order to advance social justice, including gender justice. Despite many advantages, this paper argues that care (and aligned terminologies like ‘responsibility’, and ‘vulnerability’) provides a delimited ethico-political starting point for progressive social visions. Care’s limitations are outlined by considering the instance of sexuality and older people. This critique highlights the advantages of a more thoroughly alternative approach to advancing justice, one which offers a robust focus on power relations and social change—that is, a robust focus on the political.


Chris Beasley (Presenter), University of Adelaide
Chris Beasley is Professor in Politics, and 2009-2013 Co-Director of the Fay Gale Centre for Research on Gender, at the University of Adelaide.
Her books include Heterosexuality in Theory and Practice (co-authored, Routledge, 2012), Engaging with Carol Bacchi (co-edited, University of Adelaide Press, 2012), Gender & Sexuality: Critical Theories, Critical Thinkers (Sage, 2005), What is Feminism?(Sage, 1999) and Sexual Economyths (Allen & Unwin, 1994). She is currently writing a book titled The Cultural Politics of Popular Film, and preparing another titled, Internet Dating. She has developed special issues in journals such as Sexualities, Men & Masculinities, and Australian Feminist Studies.