Ethic of Care is a theory that is centered around the interdependence of all individuals. It takes into account the fact that certain communities and people are more vulnerable than others, and that you (as the non-vulnerable population) should afford extra consideration to the vulnerable community depending on how they are affected by your choices. Ethic of care also asserts that there is no universal truth; it considers the contextual details of a moral situation to promote the specific needs and interests of the vulnerable communities.
Ethic of Care is a theory that highlights the interdependence of all individuals. It talks about how certain communities and people are more vulnerable than others, and that the non-vulnerable population should afford extra consideration to the vulnerable communities while making decisions that might affect them. However, Ethic of Care does not promote a dependency relationship between people but talks about maintaining a relationship of interdependence and mutual efforts and benefits. Hence, Ethic of Care declares that by interacting with a community that can be considered vulnerable, you should maintain a relationship of mutual opportunity and benefits, as well as consider the implications of your decision and if they have the potential to be harmful to the community.
Another important aspect of the Ethic of Care theory is that it highlights the importance of a lack of universal truth, and of taking into account contextual details. Therefore, Ethic of Care would stress the idea that there is no one formula for International Engagement, and would consider contextual details of each place such as the local customs and traditions, culture, economy, history and so forth.
Relevance to ISL:
Ethic of Care supports importance of extra consideration for vulnerable communities, while at the same time maintaining a relationship of interdependence and mutual efforts and benefits.
Example: While giving money or gift to vulnerable communities, it is important to consider if the gift will be sustainable or if it will just promote a dependency relationship.
Ethic of Care considers the contextual details of a situation to promote the needs and interests of vulnerable communities and places a high emphasis on understanding the culture of the local community that you are working in.
Example: When designing an ISL project for Rwanda, you would have to take into account the local cultural, historical context of the genocide, and language barriers. This would be very different from designing an ISL project for Afghanistan, where you would take into account the needs and wants influenced by Islamic culture.
The balanced interdependence of communities and individuals is paramount in an Ethic of Care theoretical framework. The theory prioritizes the considerations afforded for vulnerable communities, but highlights the importance of an interdependent (versus a dependent) relationship between community and service provider.
Example: When designing a health related ISL project for India, consider the goal of having the local community achieving an equal amount of benefit as the ISL project designer.
Ethic of Care supports giving extra consideration to vulnerable communities. Hence, when we consider volunteering our services abroad as part of an ISL project, then we should afford extra scrutiny to our motivations in order to provide the local communities with the best and most considerate services.
Example: If you are going on an educated related ISL project to Guatemala, it is better to go with the motivation of learning something from the local community and a sincere desire to help, rather than with the motivation of padding your resume. In the former case, you would be more likely to learn more about the culture and consider the local context do your job more sincerely; in the latter case, you wouldn’t care as much about focusing on the details that make the experience collaborative and sincere.
Within an Ethic of Care framework, “Training & Education” implies that you can serve the best interests of the vulnerable community if you are qualified and has the skills necessary to meet the needs of the local community.
Example: On a health care project to Haiti, in a rural area with little to no infrastructure, it is best to send a volunteer who has the necessary skill to operate a project with minimum technical equipment.
Academic Resources (8)
Crocker, D. A. (2008). Ethics of Global Development: Agency, Capability, and Deliberative Democracy. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Groves, C. (2009). “Future ethics: risk, care and non-reciprocal responsibility.” Journal of Global Ethics 5(1): 17 – 31.
Held, V. (2005). The Ethics of Care. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Houston, B. (1990). “Caring and Exploitation.” Hypatia 5(1): 115-119.
Keller, J., S. Nelson, et al. (2003). “Care Ethics, Service-Learning, and Social Change.” Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning 10: 39-50.
L.Bernacki, M. and E. Jaeger (2008). “Exploring the Impact of Service-Learning on Moral Development and Moral Orientation.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 14(2): 5-15.
Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A feminine approach to moral education. Berkeley, University of California Press.
Tronto, J. (1993). Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care. New York, Routledge.
Non- Academic Resources (1)
(2009) Feminist perspective on Ethics of Care at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-ethics/#FemAppEth