Twelve: Citizenship and care

This chapter is concerned with social membership and participation. Citizenship and care are contested terms that have different meanings for different political theorists as well as for the individuals who put them into practice. Here citizenship is defined as:

  • membership in a political community;

  • a legal status carrying rights and entitlements;

  • a practice involving responsibilities to the wider community (see Kymlicka and Norman, 1994).

There are many theoretical perspectives on citizenship – liberal, communitarian, civic republican, feminist and green – each bringing different assumptions and goals to the discussion. Care can be viewed as an ethical orientation and as a practice of providing support (protection and sustenance) for something or someone. Most scholarly work on care is done by feminist theorists who look at the gender aspects of care and women’s socially ascribed role as caregivers in families. There is also a vast literature on social care, which looks at the delivery of caring services like childcare, education and health in welfare states.

It is significant that care and citizenship are being considered together in this chapter because in traditional western approaches to politics they belong to two separate spheres: citizenship to the public sphere of politics and care to the private or domestic sphere. In the dominant political traditions citizenship is celebrated as the means by which humans can fulfil their true nature, while care is constructed as a ‘necessary evil’ that must be provided so that citizens may get on with the real business of politics. Some argue that the relegation of care to the household has fostered a belief that citizens are autonomous individuals who do not depend on others.

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