The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence: The Care Collective

Andreas Chatzidakis
Verso Pamphlets

Nov 19th 2020

In April 2020, at the Start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC government announced that it was taking over as the employer of all long term care facilities in the province. The government-mandated that every worker would be paid standardized wages and receive full-time hours for the next six months. This resulted in thousands of workers receiving pay rises. Unionized care workers won a starting wage of 24.83 an hour. This was a pay rise of as much as 7 dollars an hour for some workers who had been operating in privatized health facilities. The low wages were a result of privatization, erosion of services, and anti-labour policies implemented by the BC liberals across almost two decades of cutbacks. The corporate seizure of care homes is one aspect of neoliberalism as the welfare state has declined and the race for profits accelerated. Privatized care homes are limited in their capacities to provide care due to limited budgets that hamper training, support, wages, and supplies. The raises, the job security and the standardizations were implemented partly by Dr. Bonnie Henry as a recognition of the importance of and central necessity of long term health centres in our communities.

It is exactly towards this kind of reframing of understanding of care, as a pillar of primary importance to our communities, that the ‘Care Collective’ writes about in their brief text ‘The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence’. This text is divided into six sections, each centred around a different reimagining and expansion of care; politics, kinships, communities, states, economies, the world.

The collective’s main contention is that care work in our societies is presently massively undervalued and under-appreciated. This is directly linked to the current dominance of neoliberal capitalism which prioritizes profit over people. The collective advocates for the creation of a ‘care logic’ to combat ‘market logic’. The collective’s goal is to stop market logic from expanding into all aspects of human behaviour. They quote David Harvey ‘we need to go beyond the fetishization of the market’. Our current health care systems are under enormous strain due to constant threats of austerity and cuts, especially as the pandemic continues. attempts to transform care into a consumer product and burden the responsibility of care on the individual. The rich are able to outsource their care needs through transactional relationships. The market places no value on personal engagement, emotional connections, commitment, empathy, or attentiveness. For many of us, this competitive individualism can create an accelerated social system of organized loneliness and isolation. 

The allocation of resources for community care under capitalism becomes grossly unequal. Multinational corporations have benefited from the pandemic without facing the sacrifices or hardships many of us have had to endure. The reliance of the private sector for care creates a kind of shadow state that takes advantage of the actual state and operates beyond government control. This inequality will continue so long as corporations and tax havens operate beyond the jurisdictions of democratic institutions. 

Under neoliberalism, the nuclear family is assumed to be the basic unit of care. This orientation of care is harmful as not everyone participates or belongs to a nuclear family. This leads to the marginalization of alternative modes. Furthermore assuming families as a nexus of care places a burden on women if they are assumed to take on traditional gender roles of care. Within nuclear families, women end up doing the lion’s share of paid and unpaid work. These structures can create high levels of loneliness, frustration, and melancholy among those relegated to such duties. Against family orientated care models, the collective argues in favour of community models.

Nationalist arguments that we should ‘care for our own’, can easily become a platform for the radical right. Racist claims that we should care only for ‘people like us’ are commonplace. This leads to enormous harm migrants are treated without the rights of citizenship. The continued tragedy in the Mediterranean and the violence of ICE in America exemplify these forms of injustice. The care manifesto advocates for porous borders that allow people to seek a better life so that people can travel without fear of encountering a hostile environment. The text advocates for care models based on human rights and the right to claim rights.

The collective’s view of care includes care for nature and the planet. Vancouver city council has recently voted to pass its new climate change plan. Capitalism views the natural world as available for exploitation. World care means acknowledging the rights of the planet so that we can care for the natural world in a sustainable, ecological manner. This may mean giving natural landmarks such as rivers or mountains equal rights of personhood, and the accompanying rights of wellbeing and good health. The collective gives the example of the indigenous water protectors at standing rock who acted to protect a relative Mni Sose (The Missouri River). The collective states we must act 'upon the understanding that as living creatures we exist alongside and in connection with all other human and non-human beings and also dependant upon the systems and networks that sustain life across the planet.’

The manifesto asks us to rethink the Keynesian welfare state while absorbing strategies used by the Black Panthers, Act Up, Green New Deal advocates, and current examples of mutual aid that are operational under Covid. There is much to learn from indigenous struggles against settler colonialism and extractive capitalism. The care manifesto asks us to treat others as kin, with what Derrida refers to as ‘limitless hospitality towards the stranger’. They ask us to fight for our right to the city, an expansion of the commons, re-regulate markets, and build sharing institutions capable of delivering universal community care. The infrastructures proposed must be based around mutual support, public space, shared resources, and local democracy. Strategies here include nationalization, progressive municipalism, localism, and insourcing. The approach is towards building enduring, participatory, outlooks, and caring contexts into structures wherever we can. This may mean a four day work week for care workers. The manifesto advocates the development of new caring imaginaries on a global scale. The goal should be that the legacy of COVID-19 is not intensified neoliberal authoritarianism, but a new political with care at every level.

Current budgets allocate a massive overfunding of policing and surveillance, as opposed to the social provisions that can open the doors to human flourishing. The collective writes we ‘need urgently to build care infrastructure based upon a recognition of our profound interdependencies and vulnerabilities while putting the necessary material, social, and cultural conditions in place for the material thriving of all.’ For those curious about current movements towards defunding the police, especially the VPD, The collective’s text offers a vision of what an alternate world, centred around care as an organizing principle, might look like.

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