The Care Crisis: A letter from the Editor

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This book has been more than five years in the making – Emma was actually perhaps the very first author I met with after I got hired at Verso. I wouldn’t like to add up all the hours we’ve spent talking about the project, working out how to approach the topic, what should go into it, what shouldn’t (a much more important, and much harder set of decisions!) and how to do justice to such an important but mammoth topic: the crisis of care. What resulted from Emma’s five years of hard work is an exceptional book. It documents not only the consequences of a decade of austerity in Britain, but offers a fresh lens through which to understand the rise of neoliberalism and its mode of governance. She examines how care is organised, and how it has been reorganised over the last several decades, creating global care chains, resulting in what she calls the ‘care fix’.

From the introduction:                              

In the face of crisis and in light of the limits or impasses it faces, one mechanism available to a capitalist economy is to reorganise to overcome crises of profitability. Scholars such as the geographer David Harvey or the sociologist Beverly Silver, terming such forms of reorganisation a ‘fix’, have analysed the ways in which capitalist production undertakes spatial, technological, organisational or financial ‘fixes’ to solve the pressures of maintaining profitability … We can apply the analogy of the fix to the changing dynamics of care in society and the way that care is being reorganised in the face of both an economic and a care crisis. Changes in the ways in which goods and services are produced and consumed are linked to the ways in which care is provided – whether it be in families, partnerships, friendships, neighbourhoods and communities, by a (welfare) state, or through the market in commodified forms. A care fix entails the management of the care crisis in ways that resolve nothing definitively, but merely displace the crisis, thereby perpetuating the structural reflex of capitalist economies to offload the cost of care to unpaid sectors of society. Care fixes lie at the heart of the current reorganisation of the relations of production, reproduction and care.  

For a book that makes such an innovative theoretical move, it is also highly readable. It documents not only the finances of the reorganisation of care, but also the impact on the front-lines; the book weaves together narratives of various forms of care-workers, from striking junior doctors to care-home workers and parents of adult dependents. In the Covid-19 era, it is a devastating assessment of a system of care already buckling under strain, an under-funded public sector, a growing private sector organised for profit, unfit to meet care needs, or entirely unpaid in people’s homes.   And if you won’t take it from me, perhaps you’ll listen to Sylvia Federici:

"The Care Crisis is unique in threading together the many different sites across society where paid and unpaid caring takes place. The book demonstrates how a long-standing subjugation of caring bodies and feelings is entering a new phase. With a focus on the UK context and with relevance to debates beyond it, Emma Dowling offers a powerful analysis of the politics and economics of care, making evident the urgent need to transform the material conditions of our lives."

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