Rethinking critical reflection on care: late modern uncertainty and the implications for care ethics

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 20 (4):465-476 (2017)

Abstract

Care ethics as initiated by Gilligan, Held, Tronto and others has from its onset been critical towards ethical concepts established in modernity, like ‘autonomy’, alternatively proposing to think from within relationships and to pay attention to power. In this article the question is raised whether renewal in this same critical vein is necessary and possible as late modern circumstances require rethinking the care ethical inquiry. Two late modern realities that invite to rethink care ethics are complexity and precariousness. Late modern organizations, like the general hospital, codetermined by various systems are characterized by complexity and the need for complexity reduction, both permeating care practices. By means of a heuristic use of the concept of precariousness, taken as the installment of uncertainty, it is shown that relations and power in late modern care organizations have changed, precluding the use of a straightforward domination idea of power. In the final section a proposition is made how to rethink the care ethical inquiry in order to take late modern circumstances into account: inquiry should always be related to the concerns of people and practitioners from within care practices.

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