3: Fraser’s care crisis theory meets the Nordic welfare societies

The aim of this chapter is to place Nancy Fraser’s care crisis concept in the Nordic welfare society context. Fraser has developed her discussion of the care crisis with a focus mainly on the Anglo-American model, that is, in societies very different from the Nordic welfare model regarding the organisation of reproductive work, gender equality policies and labour market regulation. In her broad framework, ‘crisis of care’ is ‘best interpreted as a more or less acute expression of the social-reproductive contradictions of financialised capitalism’ (Fraser, 2016: 99, emphasis added). In this chapter, we argue that her understanding of the role of reproductive work in capitalist societies today, as well as the idea of a deepening care crisis also makes sense in a discussion of Nordic societies. There is, however, a need to take into account the historically specific institutional configurations, policies and social practices that render the dynamics of care crisis in the Nordic welfare states different and variegated, but nonetheless fundamentally engender crisis tendencies that are becoming more and more visible.

Fraser’s main argument is that reproductive work is rendered invisible, even though it constitutes a necessary ‘background condition of possibility’ for production (Fraser, 2016). This argument is not new. Feminist care theorists argue that care is at the core of any society (for example Tronto, 1993, 2013, 2017; Kittay, 1999). Feminist economists (Dalla Costa and James, 1975; Waring, 1988; Ferber and Nelson, 1993; Henderson, 1996; Folbre, 2001, among others) have argued that all production of economic value is based on unpaid work and resources whose value – and costs – are not reflected in the formal economy, and that the appropriation of unpaid work and unvalued resources is central to the accumulation of capital on a global scale (Mies, 1986).

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A Care Crisis in the Nordic Welfare States?
Care Work, Gender Equality and Welfare State Sustainability