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  • Author or Editor: Birgitte Ljunggren x
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The care crisis arises from the contradictions between the capitalist society’s dependence on social reproduction (caring) and mechanisms in capitalist organisations that undermine the very reproduction on which they depend (Fraser, 2016). Work organisations can in their quest for profit, legitimacy or efficiency, be organised in ways that hamper the combination of childcare and paid work for parents, or self-care for employees. This happens despite the fact that organisations themselves rely on well-functioning labour power premised by social reproduction. Acker (2006) describes the one-sided organisational focus on supporting and enhancing production as a corporate non-responsibility towards caring. The high degree of early childhood education and care (ECEC) coverage and public financing of Nordic ECEC services (Karila, 2012) implies that early childhood centres, organisations, play a vital role in social reproduction. Currently, 91.3 per cent of all Norwegian children aged 1–5 attend early childhood centres (ECCs) (Statistics Norway, 2020a). This chapter explores traces of the care crisis in Norwegian ECCs, approaching them as work organisations set to produce high-quality care by raising staff competence in cost-efficient ways.

Publicly financed full-time ECEC lies at the heart of the care crisis not only because it transfers care work from parents to organisations, and thereby allows parents the combination of paid work and care. ECCs shall produce high-quality care and education that is regarded as the foundation for citizens’ future labour market participation and national economic growth (Segerholm, 2012). This quality turn is also evident in Norwegian ECEC policy (Ljunggren and Lauritzen, 2018).

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Care research does not take place in a vacuum, especially in the context of a global pandemic that has magnified the care crisis dynamics discussed in this book. Perhaps the COVID-19 crisis will actually give impetus to a more enduring, transformative restructuring of care and justice. And yet there is only limited room to reflect on these developments in the format of academic book chapters written mainly in the pre-COVID-19 period. How then can we make sure to position this book in its time, so that you, the reader engaging with our discussions, get a sense of the unsettling, disruptive context in which it has been finalised?

This postscript brings together a range of vignettes by some of the book’s contributors on dimensions of COVID-19-related developments in their respective context. Taking the care crisis concept as reference point, each vignette describes a concrete moment, development or process that offers reflections on the discussions in the book within the COVID-19 context. Carsten Juul Jensen provides a glimpse from the perspective of a practitioner of care. Birgitte Ljunggren highlights the ambiguities of the impact of policy reactions to COVID-19, where unintended consequences have indeed shown what early childhood care could look like if there was sufficient political will. Carsten Juul Jensen’s poetic rendering of an interview with a nurse volunteering for the COVID-19 unit conveys a feeling of how mundane and at the same time existential hospital care is, on so many levels. Finally, in a reflection on what it means to write and edit a book on the care crisis, Laura Horn highlights the disruptive context of academic work in the time of COVID-19.

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