Care as a human right!

Kathleen Lynch proposes conceptualizing care as a human right in order to
acknowledge human dependency on care or rather human interdependency in general.  Human beings cannot survive without being taken care of. As babies, elderly, disabled or sick people we need someone to take care of our fundamental needs. However, even as healthy, financially and physically self-sufficient adults we depend on emotional care for our well being. Obviously, caring and being cared for lie at the core of human relationships. And as research shows, human relations are crucial for individual identity. Thus children who are deprived of emotional care do not only lack social competences but are also disadvantaged in terms of educational achievement, for example concerning literacy.

Therefore, it makes sense to consider care not only as an everyday nuisance that has to be dealt with but as a basic human need. The reality of human interdependency should be acknowledged in political and economic thinking. In consequence, care shall no longer be considered as a private female matter that can be passed on to others, namely to less privileged women without decent pay and no rights whatsoever, but has to be considered as valuable labor.

To be honest, however, Kathleen Lynch’s conception of care as a basic human need does not only make sense analytically but also feels good. The prospect of having to optimize oneself professionally as well as privately, to calculate working time and “quality time” is not very motivating. Having to squeeze in dinner with one’s best friend or the afternoon swim with one’s partner on a tight schedule is scary. Seeing care as a human right may allow enjoying a free afternoon without feeling guilty for being “unproductive” in the capitalist sense. But much more importantly, it may help to improve the working and living conditions of care givers all over the world and to diminish the economic and power inequalities between women and men on a world scale.

Andrea Fopp

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