1st Edition

Freedom to Care Liberalism, Dependency Care, and Culture

By Asha Bhandary Copyright 2020
    232 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    230 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book presents the first systematic account of dependency care in a liberal theory of justice. Despite the fact that receiving dependency care is necessary for human survival, the practices with which we meet society’s care needs are seldom recognized for their functional role. Instead, norms about gender and race obscure and shape expectations about whose needs for care are legitimate as well as about whose caregiving labor more advantaged members of society will receive. These opaque arrangements must be made visible if we are to remedy skewed intuitions and judgements about care. Freedom to Care develops a modified form of social contract theory with which to evaluate society’s caregiving arrangements. Building on work by feminist liberals and care ethicists, it reframes debates about care to move beyond gender with an inequality-tracking framework that can be employed in any culture. Because care provision has been enmeshed in the subordination of women and people of color, eliminating the invisibility of these forms of labor yields a critical liberal theory of justice with feminist and anti-racist aims.

    1. The Theory of Liberal Dependency Care

    Part I: Theory

    2. A Rawlsian Response to Kittay

    3. The Arrow of Care Map

    4. Other-Directedness in Contract Theory

    5. Autonomy Skills

    Part II: Practices, Principles, and Change

    6. A Liberal Concept of Caregiving as Burden and Excellence

    7. Teaching Boys How to Care

    8. A Cross-Cultural Framework

    9. Culture, Investments, and Typologies of Men



    Asha Bhandary is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Iowa, USA. Her research is primarily in feminist ethics and liberal political philosophy. She is the co-editor of Caring for Liberalism: Dependency and Liberal Political Theory (Routledge, 2021). Her published articles have appeared in Hypatia, The Journal of Political Philosophy, Social Theory and Practice, The Journal of Philosophical Research, and Feminist Philosophy Quarterly.

    "Asha Bhandary’s Freedom to Care outlines the most extensive argument to date for incorporating the human need for dependency care in a liberal theory of justice. It offers an important contribution to contemporary liberal political theories by clearly explaining how and why they might include an account of just care within them. It also provides useful insights to the contemporary ethics of care literature by suggesting that many of care ethic’s commitments are not as antithetical to liberal justice as sometimes supposed."

    Daniel Engster, University of Houston, USA

    "Freedom to Care shows the sort of attention and responsiveness to complex details and competing value demands that make not only for good care work but good political philosophy. Bhandary insists that to think well about the requirements of justice with regard to care work, we need to think of it as work, and thus distinguish it as much as possible from the relations of affection and love in which it is often carried out. This helps her pay attention not only to the gendered aspects of who cares for whom but the racial ones as well: all the ways that care work is not only unfairly distributed within families but in the expectation that some people will care for other people’s children and elderly parents."

    Anthony Simon Laden, The Philosophical Quarterly

    "…Bhandary’s book is an important contribution to thinking about pressures to engage in caregiving, and those who may not only resist such pressure but also be free of any expectation to meet others’ needs for care. Her suggestion that political theorizing about just systems of social cooperation must attend to human dependency and needs for care is a welcome reminder of the extent to which it so often has not done so….there is much in this book that fruitfully calls for further exploration, from the nature of care, to the meaning and skills required for autonomy, and the skills needed to engage appropriately and respectfully in the provision of care. There are few books that engage so skillfully with both theorists committed to liberalism, and those committed to the importance of care."

    Amy MullinUniversity of Toronto, Canada\

    "The title of Asha Bhandary’s important new book on liberal dependency care is instructive and cuts right to the heart of the book’s message, telling us what matters (both freedom and care) and roughly how the two values are to be related. Everyone who is to survive, let alone thrive, in any society needs a certain amount of care, so it is a central problem for political theory to hit upon a just way of ensuring its provision. The freedom in question, in Bhandary’s title, is two-sided: on the one hand, liberal depen[1]dency care seeks to ensure that no one will be compelled to care, just in virtue of their gender, race, or other group status, but also, to ensure that caregiving is a viable option for everyone – not just for those who, under status quo norms, are already effectively funneled into it . . . Among other things, Freedom to Care should pave the way to much fruitful new work on these issues, including both in theory of autonomy and in philosophy of education. We will be a better, more caring and freer, people if we take its lessons to heart."

    Andrea C. Westlund, Florida State University, USA