Homines Curans and the Social Work Imaginary: Post-Liberalism and the Ethics of Care

Homines Curans and the Social Work Imaginary: Post-Liberalism and the Ethics of Care Abstract This article proposes homines curans, translated as caring people, as an epistemological development of cura personalis, which is an established practice within social work that affirms caring for the person as integral to the profession. Accordingly, care, as an ontological a priori that correlates with the lifeworld is recognised as core to social work, which, as a caring vocation, is additionally committed to social protection. Resultantly, homines curans is acknowledged as delineating the limits of homo economicus within the social work imaginary whereby the ethics of care, as a critical social theory, is considered to be subversive to the symbolic and systemic power of market fundamentalism. Consequently, the ethics of care, as a post-liberal discourse, is observed to resocialise the political economy and engender social solidarity within a radical new politics of social work. Ethics of care, post-liberalism, Polanyi, post-secular, social protection Introduction In critiquing the limits of neo-liberalism, political theorist Tronto (2017) proposes homines curans as a conceptual alternative to homo economicus as perpetuated by market fundamentalism. Translated as caring people, Tronto emphasises the plural homines in order to resocialise the political economy and render care as a visible public concern. In particular, by drawing upon the work of anthropologist Polanyi (2002), Tronto situates care ethics within the countervailing double movement of socially protective practices that safeguard society from the alienating mechanisms of economic liberalism, including the commodification of labour. The focus by Tronto upon democratic care, as a relational practice that is reciprocally encountered throughout the duration of the human life cycle, therefore reorientates political analysis towards human inter-dependence that reflects the common life of the demos. Correlative with a Habermasian preservation of the lifeworld that resists colonisation by the system, the concept homines curans is therefore especially relevant to social work, which, as a caring vocation, is committed to social protection. As such, this article develops an epistemology of homines curans that establishes the ethics of care as integral to radical social work that is resistant to the systemic encroachment of neo-liberalism into the profession. Accordingly, in a development of Houston (2009), the social work imaginary is aligned with the lifeworld as the repository of common cultural meanings that are socialised through communicative action and differentiate from the system that is characterised by a convergence of the rationalised economy, political administration and judiciary through expediency, techocracy and instrumental reason. In particular, with regard to cultural resistance, the ethics of care is recognised as subversive to liberal individualism as well as the symbolic and systemic power of market fundamentalism that together seek negative liberty to the detriment of social solidarity. Indeed, as an emergent moral philosophy and critical social theory, the ethics of care is observed to be ‘conceptually inseparable from religion, culture and politics’ (Banks, 2008, p. 8) and thereby represents a radical challenge to the harsh anti-ethical tendencies of neo-liberalism, as outlined by Barnes et al. (2015) and Gray (2010). Consequently, this article extends the post-secular social work perspective introduced by Shaw (2016, 2018) by way of an exploration of homines curans as a critical concept that additionally illustrates a post-liberal approach to the ethics of care. Religion, cultural resistance and the semiotic politics of care Conceived over thirty years ago by psychologist Gilligan (1982), the ethics of care has become an established, if marginal, epistemology within social work that articulates a moral philosophy that is distinct from the denotological, utilitarian and consequentialist ethics that predominate in the profession (Gray, 2010). The emergence of the ethics of care, which originates within feminist analysis, is therefore a significant development within moral philosophy given that care ethics are barely discernible within the historic Western canon with the exception of Foucault (1988), who derives a solipsistic understanding of self-care from Plato, and a conflation by Heidegger (2010) of the Roman deity, Cura, with Being-in-the-World, which is dismissed as a regressive mythological travesty by cultural theorist Kristeva (1984). Indeed, social work authors have, to date, avoided engaging with these incipient philosophies of care in preference for the ethics of care that begins with the work of Gilligan (1982) and encompasses the works of Noddings (1986), Tronto (1994) and Held (2006). Nevertheless, for the purpose of illustrating the nuances of care ethics within social work, including an affiliation with narrative practice as observed by Parton (2003), this article revisions the Myth of Cura in order to expand upon the etymology of homines curans as well as the polyvalent dynamics of care. Re-visioning mythos as an aspect of the social work imaginary also further concurs with Habermas (2006) by recognising the subtleties of mytho-poetic thought as having a greater potential to articulate moral intuitions than instrumental reason. Moreover, in the absence of extant female authorship, feminist reconfigurations of classical texts demonstrate new approaches to epistemological inquiry that foster a culture of sexuate difference, as illustrated by Irigaray (1993) and Caverero (1995). Accordingly, in the Hyginus fable recounted by Heidegger (2010, p. 191), the following personification of Cura or care is depicted: When Care was crossing a river she saw some clay. She thoughtfully took up a piece and began to shape it. While she was meditating upon what she had made Jupiter came by. Care asked him to give it spirit which he granted. But when she wanted her name to be bestowed upon it he forbade this and demanded that his name be given instead. While Care and Jupiter were disputing, Earth arose and requested that her name be conferred upon the creature instead since she had furnished it with part of her body. They asked Saturn to be their arbiter and he made the following seemingly just decision: ‘Since you, Jupiter, gave it spirit you shall receive that spirit at its death. Since you, Earth, gave it a body you shall receive its body. But since you, Care, first shaped this creature you shall possess it as long as it lives. And because there is now a dispute among you as to its name, let it be called homo for it is made out of humus (earth)’. The privileging of care as an ontological a priori by Heidegger would therefore seem to share with the ethics of care a recognition of the profound primacy of care to human survival and flourishing, including the significance of care to the moral imagination whereby ‘conscience manifests as the call of care’ (Heidegger, 2010, p. 192). Indeed, according to Heidegger, care has an a priori ontological, primordial and phenomenological significance that defines human authenticity whilst human accomplishment, as the fulfilment of care, is embellished by reference to Seneca who observes that ‘the good of the One, namely of God, is fulfilled by its nature, but that of the other, human being, is fulfilled by care’ (Heidegger, 2010, p. 192). However, in a scathing critique, Kristeva (1984) derides Heidegger’s stoic exegesis as a retreat of the unitary subject into statis, rather than a transformative movement towards relationality, whereby care is reductively portrayed as a functional type of apolitical social work as well as a metaphor for the wet-nurse. Correlatively, the eternal feminine as a trope within Western philosophy is considered by feminist analysis to be indicative of patriarchal, neo-conservative and proto-fascist allegory that ascribes, naturalises and sentimentalises gender essentialism as immutable (Bergoffen, 1997). Nevertheless, Graybell (1990) retrieves an alternative Kristevean reading of Heidegger that, paradoxically, Kristeva neglects, through an association of care with the semiotic which not only assists with an understanding of the ‘cloak of invisibility that makes it possible to both disregard and devalue care’ (Barnes, 2012a, p. 3), but also indicates the radical potential of care to disrupt the homogeneity of the patriarchal symbolic order. Conceived within a Hegelian dialectic, Kristeva (1984) analyses the semiotic as the invisible, forgotten and abject foundation of the symbolic order, whilst Jones (1984) observes semiotic politics as examining the instinctual yet repressed pre-lingual and therefore pre-symbolic realm of human experience that includes a reappraisal of materiality, maternalism and sensory knowledge. Within the context of semiotic politics, the Myth of Cura therefore illustrates the spontaneous motility and ubiquity of care that shapes human life yet remains censored by the symbolic order or system as personified by Saturn. Accordingly, justice paradigms, which predominate the symbolic order, invariably render the semiotic trace and feminist origins of the ethics of care as inferior and subordinate. For example, in practice and with regard to statutory social work, care ethics are ambivalently considered by Featherstone (2010) as ancillary to the ethics of justice whilst the requirements of procedural justice within complex bureaucratic organisations are observed by Gregory (2010) to privilege techne over phronesis, which subsequently effaces the ethics of care as dispensable. Consequently, despite the achievements of the ethics of care in articulating in a different voice a post-essentialist recognition of care within the public sphere, thereby expanding care ethics as a democratic concern, care ethics remain a discrete compliment to rather than a central concern of social work in deference to justice-based discourses. Nevertheless, a further re-reading of Care, as the protagonist within a dynamic polylogue, enables an appreciation of care ethics as inherently relational, heterogeneous as well as radical and therefore of key significance to social work. Indeed, although parallels between the classic virtues and care are plausible, the ethics of care are distinct from virtue ethics by way of an emphasis upon inter-personal relationality rather than a focus upon individual disposition given that ‘care is more than a virtue bound to persons, ontologically care ethics as a political ethics is grounded in a relational paradigm that honours interdependence in caring relationships and the constant changes in positions of vulnerability’ (Visse et al., 2015, p. 167). Accordingly, in the Myth of Cura, whilst care is personified as ingenious, contemplative and diligent, and therefore an examplar of virtuous characteristics, the resourcefulness of care also includes interlocutory associations with the epitomes of religion, temporal justice and materiality—which are three themes subsequently explored in this article. Indeed, with regard to religion, the Myth of Cura portrays care as initiating a relationship with Jupiter, the personification of spirituality, in a co-creative process that ultimately, through the arbitration of Saturn, denies them both symbolic value by way of a named lineage, thereby marginalising their efforts to the pre-lingual semiotic. Within the context of a secular Saturnine symbolic order, the semiotic politics of care in association with religion therefore indicates a latent heritage of transformative potential. To this effect, whilst Kristeva (1984) denounces Heidegger (2010) for portraying care as an inert mortar that patches together the body and spirit polarity within the waning decline of the pagan era, re-reading care as solicitude, devotion and moral coherence within the advent of Christianity concurs with an Augustine understanding of religion as that which binds derived from the etymology ligare and re-ligio translated as to bind and re-bind. Religious syncreticism therefore demythologises care, whilst incarnationalism affirms Christian embodiment and cura personalis resocialises Christianity within a post-secular social work perspective. In particular, cura personalis emphasises personalism, rather than individualism, in attending to the unique circumstances of the other whilst a focus upon inter-personal care democratises Christianity for the common good (Kolvenbach, 2007). Situated within the Christian humanist tradition, cura personalis is therefore integral to the casework relationship, as illustrated by Biestek (1961), as well as congruent with Christian anthropology, which recognises the intrinsic worth of persons and Christian humility that sustains non-oppressive practice (Bowpitt, 2000; Whiting, 2010). Consequently, cultural resistance to market fundamentalism and the associated hegemony of homo economicus is illustrated by post-secular social work, which acknowledges homines curans and cura personalis as significant post-liberal concepts that affirm the relational self, in relation with others, as integral to the ethics of care. Justice, asymmetrical reciprocity and the ethics of care It follows that, with regard to justice, having first emerged within feminist analysis that acknowledges the accomplishments of liberal feminism, yet nevertheless remaining critical of liberalism, the ethics of care is neither illiberal nor anti-liberal, but rather post-liberal in perspective. Indeed, the historic absence of care as a subject of inquiry within moral philosophy, including virtue ethics, situates the ethics of care as after virtue as well as subsequent to the first wave of feminism and thereby entirely congruent with post-liberalism. In particular, despite a commitment towards the historic achievements of liberalism, including the establishment of democratic institutions and an independent judiciary, the ethics of care is critical of the proliferation of social contractualism within modern society, which assumes human endeavour as premised upon impartial and neutral interactions agreed between mutually disinterested and autonomous individuals (Held, 2006). Liberalism is therefore observed to neglect the more substantive and complex dynamics of human relationships, such as those involving family, fellowship, neighbourly and community relations that are invariably non-contractual, involuntary and embedded within prior social circumstances. As such, the ethics of care disrupts the atomised individualism of libertarianism whilst articulating a dissenting voice within a tide of liberalism that systematically neglects and obfuscates the inherent caring practices of the demos (Robinson, 2010; Koggel and Orme, 2010). Accordingly, care ethics are observed by Engster and Hamington (2015) to be a cogent political theory whereby the hegemonic influence of Rawline liberalism, associated with the ethics of justice, is contextualised as a partial epistemology given that … the ethics of justice focuses upon questions of fairness, equality, individual rights, abstract principles and the consistent application of them. An ethic of care focuses upon attentiveness, trust, responsiveness to need, narrative nuance and cultivating caring relations. Whereas an ethic of justice seeks a fair solution between competing individual interests and rights, an ethics of care sees the interests of carers and cared-for as importantly intertwined rather than as simply competing. Whereas justice protects equality and freedom, care fosters social bonds and cooperation (Held, 2006, p. 15). The classic telology of justice, as proportion and balance, therefore seems applicable when considering care as commensurate to justice, especially given that Habermasian proportionist ethics, as derived from Aristotle and developed by Lovat and Gray (2008), encourage deliberative parity in ethical approaches to social work theory and practice. Indeed, attempts to accommodate the ethics of care as equal in value to the ethics of justice is demonstrated by a range of social work authors, including Orme (2002), Lloyd (2005), Holland (2010), Barnes (2012a, 2012b) and Ward and Barnes (2016). However, in an indirect critique of the Habermasian ideal speech act, Young (1997) examines how irreducible alterity between persons, including social and temporal disparities, is assimilated by formal equality that idealises symmetry, consistency and reversibility between neutral parties engaged in liberal discourse ethics. In a development of Irigaray (1985), Young (1997) therefore proposes asymmetrical reciprocity as preserving an interval between persons that respectfully avoids mirroring and reducing similarity into sameness and equivalence. Correlatively, caring practices are recognised as involving asymmetrical reciprocity within mutual relationships that are characterised by difference (Noddings, 1986). For example, the nuances of asymmetrical reciprocity within a dyadic inter-generational relationship are illustrated in practice by considering how a nursing mother feeding her infant son is different from the adult son providing palliative care to his mother years later, especially as both caring encounters also involve asymmetrical yet mutual reciprocity. Yet, in a development of Kristevean semiotic politics as examined by Huntington (1998, 2016), the heterogeneous irregularities of asymmetrical relationality are habitually marginalised by liberal discourse ethics that instead privilege the principles of formal equality within the public sphere. In response, post-liberal social work recognises the paradoxical partiality of universal liberal social theory, whilst avoiding post-modern relativism, by acknowledging the asymmetrical caring practices that sustain human flourishing. In comparison to the ethics of justice, care is therefore acknowledged to be the most basic, pervasive and normative moral value given that no human life, family, community or state can survive without the actual practices of care (Held, 2006). As such, whilst legalistic approaches to care ethics have symbolic value, the language of rights when applied to care ethics is inadequate in guaranteeing practices of care that are contingent upon qualitative relations of proximity, sincerity, trust and inter-personal commitment. Accordingly, with regard to post-liberal peace and reconciliation, rights-based discourses are considered as insufficient when rebuilding relationships and committing to humanitarian practices of care (Robinson, 2011). Resultantly, post-liberal social work recognises liberal rights as embedded in and realised through pre-existing social relations rather than transcendent to politics and therefore only intelligible to the extent that subjects are enabled to negotiate and renegotiate inter-personal relationships that are conducive to eudaimonia. Consequently, post-liberal social work reorientates care ethics as core to the vocation, rather than as subordinate or commensurate to the ethics of justice, whereby recourse to procedural justice is contextualised as a temporal political intervention within a continuum of negotiated personal and social relationships that safeguard and promote human flourishing. Post-liberal social work, by critiquing hegemonic liberalism within the profession, therefore resocialises care as a neo-communitarian concern given that … the ethics of care goes further than feminist liberalism in questioning the boundaries between household and political spheres, arguing as it does that the values and practices of care most discernible in personal relations have fundamental implications for social life and political organisations (Held, 2006, p. 148). In particular, within the context of semiotic politics, the ethics of care is congruent with the recognition of substantive equality that is attentive to the asymmetrical relations within society that persist despite the symbolic value assigned to formal equality by political liberalism. Indeed, substantive equality seeks to redress detriment, enhance participatory democracy and achieve structural change through remedial action (Fredman, 2016). In comparison to procedural justice and correlative with post-liberal social work, substantive equality is therefore more attuned to the lifeworld and social movements of the demos. As such, in comparison to the nominally inclusive principles of liberal social justice that primarily focuses upon equal opportunities and individual rights, Hudson (2017) proposes decentring liberal models within social work education in preference for radical perspectives that disrupt established equilibriums by aligning with social movements that engender social solidarity. For example, the popularity of the carers’ movement within the UK encapsulates an influential history of political lobbying, campaigning and legislative reform initiated by carer activism (Yeandle, 2016). Whilst the burgeoning of carer rights represents an important political accomplishment that enables a new visibility of carers within the public sphere, concurrent with a modicum of redistributive justice via the liberal welfare state, incremental developments towards formal equality alone are therefore insufficient to ensure comprehensive responses to carer need. Rather, within the context of the market state, civil society is crucial to achieving substantive justice though a moral coherence and neo-communitarianism that cares for carers by affirming the asymmetrical, polyvalent and radical dynamics inherent within caring as the basis for social protection. Materiality, labour relations and the social economy of care Indeed, with regard to materiality and in a development of the Polanyian double movement as examined by Tronto (2017), Fraser (2013a, 2013b, 2016) proposes a further triple movement that averts countervailing responses to economic liberalism from descending into illiberal and authoritarian politics. To this effect, Fraser resists romanticising ‘society’ by reconfiguring social democracy as pivotal to social protection whereby participatory democratic practices re-embed economism within social relations. As such, both Fraser (2013a, 2013b, 2016) and Tronto (2017) share sympathies with social democratic practices, whilst Fraser additionally critiques the defects of the liberal welfare state. For example, Fraser (2013) outlines a Habermasian ambivalence towards system compliant, technocratic, surveillance and bureaucratic market-state mechanisms that atomise and commericialise public services whilst pathologising welfare serviceusers as abject customer-consumers. Correlatively, Ebner (2015) examines how both Habermas and Polanyi critique the expansion of market fundamentalism into social domains as precipitating socio-political crisis whereby commercialism, which also commodifies labour relations, has the propensity to colonise the lifeworld and fragment social solidarity within the demos. In particular, Polanyi exposes the economistic fallacy of overextending market economics into social domains by identifying labour as a substantive human activity and thereby a fictitious commodity that is instead embedded within wider socio-political relations and subsequently resistant to exclusively transactional exchange (Block and Somers, 2014). Within the context of unfettered liberalism and hyper-marketisation as accelerated by the market state, Polanyian perspectives therefore acknowledge the social detriments incurred as the result of the intensification of neo-liberalism. For example, Fraser (2013) observes the market state as reframing social relations within transactional, economistic and utilitarian cultures, which reduces politics to managerial, technocratic and administrative tasks, whilst Yarrow (2017) outlines how legitimate labour concerns regarding deteriorations in the terms and conditions of employment are dismissed as reactionary populist grievances by economic liberals. In response, pre-redistributive approaches to social protection are proposed that include new forms of workplace democracy and employee ownership, curtailing shareholder rights to promote long-term investment and shifting taxation to corporate assets and profits rather than wages. Accordingly, Pabst (2017) charts a new post-liberal centre ground within politics that aims to preserve the dignity of labour over capital by re-embedding the market and state within the intermediate institutions of civil society that endorse trade unions, a living wage, co-operatives, professional and civil associations, devolved government, vocational training, apprenticeship levies on large businesses and worker representation on company boards. Consequently, a more active role for the collaborativestate is envisioned that enables substantive justice and pluralist participation in shared prosperity through mutual assistance and co-operation. It follows that the ethics of care, having previously resisted liberal citizen-client perspectives, is inherently sympathetic with post-liberal politics that propose a renewal in social solidarity, whereby ‘the normative framework of care ethics can contribute towards imagining, articulating and implementing real alternatives to neo-liberalism’ (Robinson, 2006, p. 164). In particular, by recognising care as labour and interdependency as a normative aspect of the human condition, the ethics of care renders visible the semiotic substratum upon which symbolic economic systems function. Indeed, human beings experience their formative years entirely dependent upon others for care and, due to the asymmetrical reciprocities involved with caring, are invariably indebted throughout their lives. Nevertheless, economism habitually conceals this relational indebtedness despite the invisible and unremunerated labour of carers forming the intrinsic infrastructure upon which the symbolic order operates. As such, care as labour is invariably forgotten, disregarded or excluded from symbolic economic systems, including market and gift economies, which also mystify the gendered divisions of labour within society (Strathern, 1988), the mechanisms of invisibility that economically devalue care work thereby including cultural hegemony, socio-legal neglect and spatial organisation that domesticates feminised labour as incidental to the public sphere (Hatton, 2017). Indeed, neo-conservatism typically misrecognises care as a reified gift or virtuous sacrifice, rather than an intrinsic labour activity which, when convergent with neo-liberalism, intensifies gender subordination via retrenched care services that inordinately affect women (Brown, 2015; Cooper, 2017). In response, however, public recognition of care as labour affirms the dignity of carers and exposes attempts to ignore, nullify and commodify care as reductively crude, flawed and precipitous of the crisis in care that is paradoxically induced by market fundamentalism. Moreover, recognising care as labour acknowledges that rest, respite and remuneration are prerequisites for carers engaged in intensive caring practices and that the absence of carer support is tantamount to exploitation. For example, high levels of unremunerated carers regularly attend to chronically ill, disabled and aged persons without ever experiencing respite, which is subsequently detrimental to their own physical and mental health as well as financial and social well-being (Carers UK, 2017). In addition, many carers of working age are compelled to combine employment with unremunerated care, having been adversely affected by retrenched social care provision (Kroger and Yeandle, 2014). Investment in care infrastructures, such as respite, intermediate and home-care services, concurrent with carers’ allowance and pension provision, is therefore crucial to ensuring sustainable care within the community, which additionally prevents avoidable emergency and acute in-patient admissions to hospital as well as residential and nursing care institutions. However, in addition to redistributive justice, sustainable social protection also entails pre-redistributive strategies such as co-production, participatory democracy and meaningful citizen engagement within local community contexts (Evans et al., 2012). Resultantly, recognising care as labour affirms the importance of social solidarity whereby, in response to the privatisation of public services, the growing unionisation of foster-carers, for example, demonstrates collective action that protects the interests of labour over capital. Moreover, privileging care as labour exposes the premiums placed upon reified care beds, packages and placements as symptomatic of commodity fetishism that mystifies the labour relations inherent in caring. Consequently, the ethics of care, as a critical social theory, renders care as a visible public concern, which challenges the exploitation of carers and subverts the commodification of labour as perpetuated by market fundamentalism and market-state mechanisms. Such Polanyian recognition of economics as a substantive social activity therefore correlates with the emphasis placed upon relationality by the ethics of care, which subsequently challenges economism. In particular, by recognising the asymmetrical relations within inter-personal and hence political economies, the ethics of care affirm the temporal intervals characteristic of inter-generational care and cradle-to-grave social insurance schemes that expose the calculative immediacy, transactionalism and short-termism of market fundamentalism. As such, recognition of asymmetrical reciprocity aligns with long-termism whereby the curator-state is envisioned as administering the care-full stewardship of state interests on behalf of the demos. Indeed, care as moral coherence necessitates prudence that is heedful of the political and financial chicanery of neo-liberalism. For example, the recognition of asymmetrical reciprocity within the political economy of care enables a critique of the idealised neutral level playing field, assumed by liberal economics and enshrined within competition law, which conceals the market dominance of corporate monopolies implicated in the privatisation of state interests, including care services. Moreover, an emphasis upon reciprocity challenges the acquisitive rationales of corporate monopolies, caricatured as vampire capitalism, which are incentivised solely by capital growth whereby risks are socialised whilst profits are siphoned into largely deregulated financial markets rather than reinvested into public services (Kennedy, 2016). Profiteering from the care industry is thereby observed to extend capital accumulation through the surplus value accrued by the expropriation of visible and invisible caring labour (Garret, 2017a, 2017b). Indeed, economism, which flattens market exchange to abstract, neutral and expedient transactional equivalences, is subverted by the recognition of asymmetrical reciprocity that is attentive to the alterity and indebtedness embedded within human relations. Accordingly, the ethics of care correlate with a classic understanding of community as communitas wherein cum and munus translate respectively as each other and the transitive act of giving. The connotation of munus is therefore neither territory nor capital to be defined and defended under jurisdiction, but rather an asymmetrical reciprocity between people that distinguishes communitas as unified by mutual indebtedness (Esposito, 2010). In practice, the ethics of care therefore concurs with the social economy which, as Vickers et al. (2017) examine, encompasses a range of non-profit organisations that are attentive to pre-redistributive strategies that address socio-economic detriment by cultivating mutual and inclusive economic growth. Community anti-poverty programmes thereby correlating with radical social work which is sympathetic to post-liberal notions of personhood that locate reciprocal relationality at the root of good practice (Strier, 2009; Dickens, 2018; Pease, 2013). Consequently, the curator-state is envisioned as responsive to the caring labour of the demos by maintaining heterogeneity within a polyvalent, rather than monopolised, social economy that re-embeds economism within social relations. Conclusion As a caring vocation, social work traverses spheres of care, cultural milieus, systems of justice and political economies probing for cura or cures for social maladies. As a caring profession, social work is therefore particularly adept at negotiating semiotic politics that render visible the neglected realities of social marginalisation through an attentiveness that personifies cura personalis and homines curans. As such, whilst nascent with the welfare state, social work retains a heuristic heterogeneity that seeks to sustain care ethics and strengthen social protection. Inter-professional and inter-agency collaboration, including extensive co-operation with civil society, is therefore integral to radical social work. Yet social work is unlikely to ever attain the symbolic value assigned to other professions, such as law, nor should the vocation necessarily aspire to do so despite an enduring commitment towards substantive justice. Rather, social work, as a caring profession, is both conciliatory and radical by retaining a proximity with the abject as repudiated by the symbolic order. Accordingly, correlative with the ethics of care as counter-hegemonic to liberalism, radical social work is frequently counter-cultural to the system, especially when aligned with the lifeworld. Indeed the recognition of homines curans and cura personalis observes a moral coherence that challenges the hegemony of neo-liberalism and associated homo economicus tropes by affirming the inherent caring practices of the demos. Resultantly, by acknowledging the inter-dependence and asymmetrical reciprocity inherent within human relationality, the ethics of care enables remedial critiques of market fundamentalism that resocialise the political economy and engender social solidarity. Consequently, recognising homines curans as an epistemological extension of cura personalis establishes the ethics of care as integral to radical social work, which subsequently delineates the limits of neo-liberalism within the profession. Conflict of interest statement. None declared. References Banks S. 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( 2016 ) ‘ Caring for our carers’ , Juncture , 23 ( 1 ), pp. 57 – 62 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Young M. ( 1997 ) ‘ Feminism and the public sphere: Asymmetrical reciprocity: On moral respect, wonder and enlarged thought ’, Constellations , 3 ( 3 ), pp. 340 – 63 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The British Journal of Social Work Oxford University Press

Homines Curans and the Social Work Imaginary: Post-Liberalism and the Ethics of Care

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.
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0045-3102
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Abstract

Abstract This article proposes homines curans, translated as caring people, as an epistemological development of cura personalis, which is an established practice within social work that affirms caring for the person as integral to the profession. Accordingly, care, as an ontological a priori that correlates with the lifeworld is recognised as core to social work, which, as a caring vocation, is additionally committed to social protection. Resultantly, homines curans is acknowledged as delineating the limits of homo economicus within the social work imaginary whereby the ethics of care, as a critical social theory, is considered to be subversive to the symbolic and systemic power of market fundamentalism. Consequently, the ethics of care, as a post-liberal discourse, is observed to resocialise the political economy and engender social solidarity within a radical new politics of social work. Ethics of care, post-liberalism, Polanyi, post-secular, social protection Introduction In critiquing the limits of neo-liberalism, political theorist Tronto (2017) proposes homines curans as a conceptual alternative to homo economicus as perpetuated by market fundamentalism. Translated as caring people, Tronto emphasises the plural homines in order to resocialise the political economy and render care as a visible public concern. In particular, by drawing upon the work of anthropologist Polanyi (2002), Tronto situates care ethics within the countervailing double movement of socially protective practices that safeguard society from the alienating mechanisms of economic liberalism, including the commodification of labour. The focus by Tronto upon democratic care, as a relational practice that is reciprocally encountered throughout the duration of the human life cycle, therefore reorientates political analysis towards human inter-dependence that reflects the common life of the demos. Correlative with a Habermasian preservation of the lifeworld that resists colonisation by the system, the concept homines curans is therefore especially relevant to social work, which, as a caring vocation, is committed to social protection. As such, this article develops an epistemology of homines curans that establishes the ethics of care as integral to radical social work that is resistant to the systemic encroachment of neo-liberalism into the profession. Accordingly, in a development of Houston (2009), the social work imaginary is aligned with the lifeworld as the repository of common cultural meanings that are socialised through communicative action and differentiate from the system that is characterised by a convergence of the rationalised economy, political administration and judiciary through expediency, techocracy and instrumental reason. In particular, with regard to cultural resistance, the ethics of care is recognised as subversive to liberal individualism as well as the symbolic and systemic power of market fundamentalism that together seek negative liberty to the detriment of social solidarity. Indeed, as an emergent moral philosophy and critical social theory, the ethics of care is observed to be ‘conceptually inseparable from religion, culture and politics’ (Banks, 2008, p. 8) and thereby represents a radical challenge to the harsh anti-ethical tendencies of neo-liberalism, as outlined by Barnes et al. (2015) and Gray (2010). Consequently, this article extends the post-secular social work perspective introduced by Shaw (2016, 2018) by way of an exploration of homines curans as a critical concept that additionally illustrates a post-liberal approach to the ethics of care. Religion, cultural resistance and the semiotic politics of care Conceived over thirty years ago by psychologist Gilligan (1982), the ethics of care has become an established, if marginal, epistemology within social work that articulates a moral philosophy that is distinct from the denotological, utilitarian and consequentialist ethics that predominate in the profession (Gray, 2010). The emergence of the ethics of care, which originates within feminist analysis, is therefore a significant development within moral philosophy given that care ethics are barely discernible within the historic Western canon with the exception of Foucault (1988), who derives a solipsistic understanding of self-care from Plato, and a conflation by Heidegger (2010) of the Roman deity, Cura, with Being-in-the-World, which is dismissed as a regressive mythological travesty by cultural theorist Kristeva (1984). Indeed, social work authors have, to date, avoided engaging with these incipient philosophies of care in preference for the ethics of care that begins with the work of Gilligan (1982) and encompasses the works of Noddings (1986), Tronto (1994) and Held (2006). Nevertheless, for the purpose of illustrating the nuances of care ethics within social work, including an affiliation with narrative practice as observed by Parton (2003), this article revisions the Myth of Cura in order to expand upon the etymology of homines curans as well as the polyvalent dynamics of care. Re-visioning mythos as an aspect of the social work imaginary also further concurs with Habermas (2006) by recognising the subtleties of mytho-poetic thought as having a greater potential to articulate moral intuitions than instrumental reason. Moreover, in the absence of extant female authorship, feminist reconfigurations of classical texts demonstrate new approaches to epistemological inquiry that foster a culture of sexuate difference, as illustrated by Irigaray (1993) and Caverero (1995). Accordingly, in the Hyginus fable recounted by Heidegger (2010, p. 191), the following personification of Cura or care is depicted: When Care was crossing a river she saw some clay. She thoughtfully took up a piece and began to shape it. While she was meditating upon what she had made Jupiter came by. Care asked him to give it spirit which he granted. But when she wanted her name to be bestowed upon it he forbade this and demanded that his name be given instead. While Care and Jupiter were disputing, Earth arose and requested that her name be conferred upon the creature instead since she had furnished it with part of her body. They asked Saturn to be their arbiter and he made the following seemingly just decision: ‘Since you, Jupiter, gave it spirit you shall receive that spirit at its death. Since you, Earth, gave it a body you shall receive its body. But since you, Care, first shaped this creature you shall possess it as long as it lives. And because there is now a dispute among you as to its name, let it be called homo for it is made out of humus (earth)’. The privileging of care as an ontological a priori by Heidegger would therefore seem to share with the ethics of care a recognition of the profound primacy of care to human survival and flourishing, including the significance of care to the moral imagination whereby ‘conscience manifests as the call of care’ (Heidegger, 2010, p. 192). Indeed, according to Heidegger, care has an a priori ontological, primordial and phenomenological significance that defines human authenticity whilst human accomplishment, as the fulfilment of care, is embellished by reference to Seneca who observes that ‘the good of the One, namely of God, is fulfilled by its nature, but that of the other, human being, is fulfilled by care’ (Heidegger, 2010, p. 192). However, in a scathing critique, Kristeva (1984) derides Heidegger’s stoic exegesis as a retreat of the unitary subject into statis, rather than a transformative movement towards relationality, whereby care is reductively portrayed as a functional type of apolitical social work as well as a metaphor for the wet-nurse. Correlatively, the eternal feminine as a trope within Western philosophy is considered by feminist analysis to be indicative of patriarchal, neo-conservative and proto-fascist allegory that ascribes, naturalises and sentimentalises gender essentialism as immutable (Bergoffen, 1997). Nevertheless, Graybell (1990) retrieves an alternative Kristevean reading of Heidegger that, paradoxically, Kristeva neglects, through an association of care with the semiotic which not only assists with an understanding of the ‘cloak of invisibility that makes it possible to both disregard and devalue care’ (Barnes, 2012a, p. 3), but also indicates the radical potential of care to disrupt the homogeneity of the patriarchal symbolic order. Conceived within a Hegelian dialectic, Kristeva (1984) analyses the semiotic as the invisible, forgotten and abject foundation of the symbolic order, whilst Jones (1984) observes semiotic politics as examining the instinctual yet repressed pre-lingual and therefore pre-symbolic realm of human experience that includes a reappraisal of materiality, maternalism and sensory knowledge. Within the context of semiotic politics, the Myth of Cura therefore illustrates the spontaneous motility and ubiquity of care that shapes human life yet remains censored by the symbolic order or system as personified by Saturn. Accordingly, justice paradigms, which predominate the symbolic order, invariably render the semiotic trace and feminist origins of the ethics of care as inferior and subordinate. For example, in practice and with regard to statutory social work, care ethics are ambivalently considered by Featherstone (2010) as ancillary to the ethics of justice whilst the requirements of procedural justice within complex bureaucratic organisations are observed by Gregory (2010) to privilege techne over phronesis, which subsequently effaces the ethics of care as dispensable. Consequently, despite the achievements of the ethics of care in articulating in a different voice a post-essentialist recognition of care within the public sphere, thereby expanding care ethics as a democratic concern, care ethics remain a discrete compliment to rather than a central concern of social work in deference to justice-based discourses. Nevertheless, a further re-reading of Care, as the protagonist within a dynamic polylogue, enables an appreciation of care ethics as inherently relational, heterogeneous as well as radical and therefore of key significance to social work. Indeed, although parallels between the classic virtues and care are plausible, the ethics of care are distinct from virtue ethics by way of an emphasis upon inter-personal relationality rather than a focus upon individual disposition given that ‘care is more than a virtue bound to persons, ontologically care ethics as a political ethics is grounded in a relational paradigm that honours interdependence in caring relationships and the constant changes in positions of vulnerability’ (Visse et al., 2015, p. 167). Accordingly, in the Myth of Cura, whilst care is personified as ingenious, contemplative and diligent, and therefore an examplar of virtuous characteristics, the resourcefulness of care also includes interlocutory associations with the epitomes of religion, temporal justice and materiality—which are three themes subsequently explored in this article. Indeed, with regard to religion, the Myth of Cura portrays care as initiating a relationship with Jupiter, the personification of spirituality, in a co-creative process that ultimately, through the arbitration of Saturn, denies them both symbolic value by way of a named lineage, thereby marginalising their efforts to the pre-lingual semiotic. Within the context of a secular Saturnine symbolic order, the semiotic politics of care in association with religion therefore indicates a latent heritage of transformative potential. To this effect, whilst Kristeva (1984) denounces Heidegger (2010) for portraying care as an inert mortar that patches together the body and spirit polarity within the waning decline of the pagan era, re-reading care as solicitude, devotion and moral coherence within the advent of Christianity concurs with an Augustine understanding of religion as that which binds derived from the etymology ligare and re-ligio translated as to bind and re-bind. Religious syncreticism therefore demythologises care, whilst incarnationalism affirms Christian embodiment and cura personalis resocialises Christianity within a post-secular social work perspective. In particular, cura personalis emphasises personalism, rather than individualism, in attending to the unique circumstances of the other whilst a focus upon inter-personal care democratises Christianity for the common good (Kolvenbach, 2007). Situated within the Christian humanist tradition, cura personalis is therefore integral to the casework relationship, as illustrated by Biestek (1961), as well as congruent with Christian anthropology, which recognises the intrinsic worth of persons and Christian humility that sustains non-oppressive practice (Bowpitt, 2000; Whiting, 2010). Consequently, cultural resistance to market fundamentalism and the associated hegemony of homo economicus is illustrated by post-secular social work, which acknowledges homines curans and cura personalis as significant post-liberal concepts that affirm the relational self, in relation with others, as integral to the ethics of care. Justice, asymmetrical reciprocity and the ethics of care It follows that, with regard to justice, having first emerged within feminist analysis that acknowledges the accomplishments of liberal feminism, yet nevertheless remaining critical of liberalism, the ethics of care is neither illiberal nor anti-liberal, but rather post-liberal in perspective. Indeed, the historic absence of care as a subject of inquiry within moral philosophy, including virtue ethics, situates the ethics of care as after virtue as well as subsequent to the first wave of feminism and thereby entirely congruent with post-liberalism. In particular, despite a commitment towards the historic achievements of liberalism, including the establishment of democratic institutions and an independent judiciary, the ethics of care is critical of the proliferation of social contractualism within modern society, which assumes human endeavour as premised upon impartial and neutral interactions agreed between mutually disinterested and autonomous individuals (Held, 2006). Liberalism is therefore observed to neglect the more substantive and complex dynamics of human relationships, such as those involving family, fellowship, neighbourly and community relations that are invariably non-contractual, involuntary and embedded within prior social circumstances. As such, the ethics of care disrupts the atomised individualism of libertarianism whilst articulating a dissenting voice within a tide of liberalism that systematically neglects and obfuscates the inherent caring practices of the demos (Robinson, 2010; Koggel and Orme, 2010). Accordingly, care ethics are observed by Engster and Hamington (2015) to be a cogent political theory whereby the hegemonic influence of Rawline liberalism, associated with the ethics of justice, is contextualised as a partial epistemology given that … the ethics of justice focuses upon questions of fairness, equality, individual rights, abstract principles and the consistent application of them. An ethic of care focuses upon attentiveness, trust, responsiveness to need, narrative nuance and cultivating caring relations. Whereas an ethic of justice seeks a fair solution between competing individual interests and rights, an ethics of care sees the interests of carers and cared-for as importantly intertwined rather than as simply competing. Whereas justice protects equality and freedom, care fosters social bonds and cooperation (Held, 2006, p. 15). The classic telology of justice, as proportion and balance, therefore seems applicable when considering care as commensurate to justice, especially given that Habermasian proportionist ethics, as derived from Aristotle and developed by Lovat and Gray (2008), encourage deliberative parity in ethical approaches to social work theory and practice. Indeed, attempts to accommodate the ethics of care as equal in value to the ethics of justice is demonstrated by a range of social work authors, including Orme (2002), Lloyd (2005), Holland (2010), Barnes (2012a, 2012b) and Ward and Barnes (2016). However, in an indirect critique of the Habermasian ideal speech act, Young (1997) examines how irreducible alterity between persons, including social and temporal disparities, is assimilated by formal equality that idealises symmetry, consistency and reversibility between neutral parties engaged in liberal discourse ethics. In a development of Irigaray (1985), Young (1997) therefore proposes asymmetrical reciprocity as preserving an interval between persons that respectfully avoids mirroring and reducing similarity into sameness and equivalence. Correlatively, caring practices are recognised as involving asymmetrical reciprocity within mutual relationships that are characterised by difference (Noddings, 1986). For example, the nuances of asymmetrical reciprocity within a dyadic inter-generational relationship are illustrated in practice by considering how a nursing mother feeding her infant son is different from the adult son providing palliative care to his mother years later, especially as both caring encounters also involve asymmetrical yet mutual reciprocity. Yet, in a development of Kristevean semiotic politics as examined by Huntington (1998, 2016), the heterogeneous irregularities of asymmetrical relationality are habitually marginalised by liberal discourse ethics that instead privilege the principles of formal equality within the public sphere. In response, post-liberal social work recognises the paradoxical partiality of universal liberal social theory, whilst avoiding post-modern relativism, by acknowledging the asymmetrical caring practices that sustain human flourishing. In comparison to the ethics of justice, care is therefore acknowledged to be the most basic, pervasive and normative moral value given that no human life, family, community or state can survive without the actual practices of care (Held, 2006). As such, whilst legalistic approaches to care ethics have symbolic value, the language of rights when applied to care ethics is inadequate in guaranteeing practices of care that are contingent upon qualitative relations of proximity, sincerity, trust and inter-personal commitment. Accordingly, with regard to post-liberal peace and reconciliation, rights-based discourses are considered as insufficient when rebuilding relationships and committing to humanitarian practices of care (Robinson, 2011). Resultantly, post-liberal social work recognises liberal rights as embedded in and realised through pre-existing social relations rather than transcendent to politics and therefore only intelligible to the extent that subjects are enabled to negotiate and renegotiate inter-personal relationships that are conducive to eudaimonia. Consequently, post-liberal social work reorientates care ethics as core to the vocation, rather than as subordinate or commensurate to the ethics of justice, whereby recourse to procedural justice is contextualised as a temporal political intervention within a continuum of negotiated personal and social relationships that safeguard and promote human flourishing. Post-liberal social work, by critiquing hegemonic liberalism within the profession, therefore resocialises care as a neo-communitarian concern given that … the ethics of care goes further than feminist liberalism in questioning the boundaries between household and political spheres, arguing as it does that the values and practices of care most discernible in personal relations have fundamental implications for social life and political organisations (Held, 2006, p. 148). In particular, within the context of semiotic politics, the ethics of care is congruent with the recognition of substantive equality that is attentive to the asymmetrical relations within society that persist despite the symbolic value assigned to formal equality by political liberalism. Indeed, substantive equality seeks to redress detriment, enhance participatory democracy and achieve structural change through remedial action (Fredman, 2016). In comparison to procedural justice and correlative with post-liberal social work, substantive equality is therefore more attuned to the lifeworld and social movements of the demos. As such, in comparison to the nominally inclusive principles of liberal social justice that primarily focuses upon equal opportunities and individual rights, Hudson (2017) proposes decentring liberal models within social work education in preference for radical perspectives that disrupt established equilibriums by aligning with social movements that engender social solidarity. For example, the popularity of the carers’ movement within the UK encapsulates an influential history of political lobbying, campaigning and legislative reform initiated by carer activism (Yeandle, 2016). Whilst the burgeoning of carer rights represents an important political accomplishment that enables a new visibility of carers within the public sphere, concurrent with a modicum of redistributive justice via the liberal welfare state, incremental developments towards formal equality alone are therefore insufficient to ensure comprehensive responses to carer need. Rather, within the context of the market state, civil society is crucial to achieving substantive justice though a moral coherence and neo-communitarianism that cares for carers by affirming the asymmetrical, polyvalent and radical dynamics inherent within caring as the basis for social protection. Materiality, labour relations and the social economy of care Indeed, with regard to materiality and in a development of the Polanyian double movement as examined by Tronto (2017), Fraser (2013a, 2013b, 2016) proposes a further triple movement that averts countervailing responses to economic liberalism from descending into illiberal and authoritarian politics. To this effect, Fraser resists romanticising ‘society’ by reconfiguring social democracy as pivotal to social protection whereby participatory democratic practices re-embed economism within social relations. As such, both Fraser (2013a, 2013b, 2016) and Tronto (2017) share sympathies with social democratic practices, whilst Fraser additionally critiques the defects of the liberal welfare state. For example, Fraser (2013) outlines a Habermasian ambivalence towards system compliant, technocratic, surveillance and bureaucratic market-state mechanisms that atomise and commericialise public services whilst pathologising welfare serviceusers as abject customer-consumers. Correlatively, Ebner (2015) examines how both Habermas and Polanyi critique the expansion of market fundamentalism into social domains as precipitating socio-political crisis whereby commercialism, which also commodifies labour relations, has the propensity to colonise the lifeworld and fragment social solidarity within the demos. In particular, Polanyi exposes the economistic fallacy of overextending market economics into social domains by identifying labour as a substantive human activity and thereby a fictitious commodity that is instead embedded within wider socio-political relations and subsequently resistant to exclusively transactional exchange (Block and Somers, 2014). Within the context of unfettered liberalism and hyper-marketisation as accelerated by the market state, Polanyian perspectives therefore acknowledge the social detriments incurred as the result of the intensification of neo-liberalism. For example, Fraser (2013) observes the market state as reframing social relations within transactional, economistic and utilitarian cultures, which reduces politics to managerial, technocratic and administrative tasks, whilst Yarrow (2017) outlines how legitimate labour concerns regarding deteriorations in the terms and conditions of employment are dismissed as reactionary populist grievances by economic liberals. In response, pre-redistributive approaches to social protection are proposed that include new forms of workplace democracy and employee ownership, curtailing shareholder rights to promote long-term investment and shifting taxation to corporate assets and profits rather than wages. Accordingly, Pabst (2017) charts a new post-liberal centre ground within politics that aims to preserve the dignity of labour over capital by re-embedding the market and state within the intermediate institutions of civil society that endorse trade unions, a living wage, co-operatives, professional and civil associations, devolved government, vocational training, apprenticeship levies on large businesses and worker representation on company boards. Consequently, a more active role for the collaborativestate is envisioned that enables substantive justice and pluralist participation in shared prosperity through mutual assistance and co-operation. It follows that the ethics of care, having previously resisted liberal citizen-client perspectives, is inherently sympathetic with post-liberal politics that propose a renewal in social solidarity, whereby ‘the normative framework of care ethics can contribute towards imagining, articulating and implementing real alternatives to neo-liberalism’ (Robinson, 2006, p. 164). In particular, by recognising care as labour and interdependency as a normative aspect of the human condition, the ethics of care renders visible the semiotic substratum upon which symbolic economic systems function. Indeed, human beings experience their formative years entirely dependent upon others for care and, due to the asymmetrical reciprocities involved with caring, are invariably indebted throughout their lives. Nevertheless, economism habitually conceals this relational indebtedness despite the invisible and unremunerated labour of carers forming the intrinsic infrastructure upon which the symbolic order operates. As such, care as labour is invariably forgotten, disregarded or excluded from symbolic economic systems, including market and gift economies, which also mystify the gendered divisions of labour within society (Strathern, 1988), the mechanisms of invisibility that economically devalue care work thereby including cultural hegemony, socio-legal neglect and spatial organisation that domesticates feminised labour as incidental to the public sphere (Hatton, 2017). Indeed, neo-conservatism typically misrecognises care as a reified gift or virtuous sacrifice, rather than an intrinsic labour activity which, when convergent with neo-liberalism, intensifies gender subordination via retrenched care services that inordinately affect women (Brown, 2015; Cooper, 2017). In response, however, public recognition of care as labour affirms the dignity of carers and exposes attempts to ignore, nullify and commodify care as reductively crude, flawed and precipitous of the crisis in care that is paradoxically induced by market fundamentalism. Moreover, recognising care as labour acknowledges that rest, respite and remuneration are prerequisites for carers engaged in intensive caring practices and that the absence of carer support is tantamount to exploitation. For example, high levels of unremunerated carers regularly attend to chronically ill, disabled and aged persons without ever experiencing respite, which is subsequently detrimental to their own physical and mental health as well as financial and social well-being (Carers UK, 2017). In addition, many carers of working age are compelled to combine employment with unremunerated care, having been adversely affected by retrenched social care provision (Kroger and Yeandle, 2014). Investment in care infrastructures, such as respite, intermediate and home-care services, concurrent with carers’ allowance and pension provision, is therefore crucial to ensuring sustainable care within the community, which additionally prevents avoidable emergency and acute in-patient admissions to hospital as well as residential and nursing care institutions. However, in addition to redistributive justice, sustainable social protection also entails pre-redistributive strategies such as co-production, participatory democracy and meaningful citizen engagement within local community contexts (Evans et al., 2012). Resultantly, recognising care as labour affirms the importance of social solidarity whereby, in response to the privatisation of public services, the growing unionisation of foster-carers, for example, demonstrates collective action that protects the interests of labour over capital. Moreover, privileging care as labour exposes the premiums placed upon reified care beds, packages and placements as symptomatic of commodity fetishism that mystifies the labour relations inherent in caring. Consequently, the ethics of care, as a critical social theory, renders care as a visible public concern, which challenges the exploitation of carers and subverts the commodification of labour as perpetuated by market fundamentalism and market-state mechanisms. Such Polanyian recognition of economics as a substantive social activity therefore correlates with the emphasis placed upon relationality by the ethics of care, which subsequently challenges economism. In particular, by recognising the asymmetrical relations within inter-personal and hence political economies, the ethics of care affirm the temporal intervals characteristic of inter-generational care and cradle-to-grave social insurance schemes that expose the calculative immediacy, transactionalism and short-termism of market fundamentalism. As such, recognition of asymmetrical reciprocity aligns with long-termism whereby the curator-state is envisioned as administering the care-full stewardship of state interests on behalf of the demos. Indeed, care as moral coherence necessitates prudence that is heedful of the political and financial chicanery of neo-liberalism. For example, the recognition of asymmetrical reciprocity within the political economy of care enables a critique of the idealised neutral level playing field, assumed by liberal economics and enshrined within competition law, which conceals the market dominance of corporate monopolies implicated in the privatisation of state interests, including care services. Moreover, an emphasis upon reciprocity challenges the acquisitive rationales of corporate monopolies, caricatured as vampire capitalism, which are incentivised solely by capital growth whereby risks are socialised whilst profits are siphoned into largely deregulated financial markets rather than reinvested into public services (Kennedy, 2016). Profiteering from the care industry is thereby observed to extend capital accumulation through the surplus value accrued by the expropriation of visible and invisible caring labour (Garret, 2017a, 2017b). Indeed, economism, which flattens market exchange to abstract, neutral and expedient transactional equivalences, is subverted by the recognition of asymmetrical reciprocity that is attentive to the alterity and indebtedness embedded within human relations. Accordingly, the ethics of care correlate with a classic understanding of community as communitas wherein cum and munus translate respectively as each other and the transitive act of giving. The connotation of munus is therefore neither territory nor capital to be defined and defended under jurisdiction, but rather an asymmetrical reciprocity between people that distinguishes communitas as unified by mutual indebtedness (Esposito, 2010). In practice, the ethics of care therefore concurs with the social economy which, as Vickers et al. (2017) examine, encompasses a range of non-profit organisations that are attentive to pre-redistributive strategies that address socio-economic detriment by cultivating mutual and inclusive economic growth. Community anti-poverty programmes thereby correlating with radical social work which is sympathetic to post-liberal notions of personhood that locate reciprocal relationality at the root of good practice (Strier, 2009; Dickens, 2018; Pease, 2013). Consequently, the curator-state is envisioned as responsive to the caring labour of the demos by maintaining heterogeneity within a polyvalent, rather than monopolised, social economy that re-embeds economism within social relations. Conclusion As a caring vocation, social work traverses spheres of care, cultural milieus, systems of justice and political economies probing for cura or cures for social maladies. As a caring profession, social work is therefore particularly adept at negotiating semiotic politics that render visible the neglected realities of social marginalisation through an attentiveness that personifies cura personalis and homines curans. As such, whilst nascent with the welfare state, social work retains a heuristic heterogeneity that seeks to sustain care ethics and strengthen social protection. Inter-professional and inter-agency collaboration, including extensive co-operation with civil society, is therefore integral to radical social work. Yet social work is unlikely to ever attain the symbolic value assigned to other professions, such as law, nor should the vocation necessarily aspire to do so despite an enduring commitment towards substantive justice. Rather, social work, as a caring profession, is both conciliatory and radical by retaining a proximity with the abject as repudiated by the symbolic order. 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Published: Apr 20, 2018

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