Care or Neoliberalism: Social Pathology?
AbstractThis paper explores two conflicting social ethical systems. One is the dominant ethical standard of modern industrial society-neoliberalism. Neoliberalism’s ethical foundations grow out of classic liberalism which is essentially a natural law, natural right, conceptualization. This ethical system draws on the implicit characterization of human nature as immutably highly individualistic. As a consequence of this natural human condition, neoliberalism most deeply supports an overarching ethic of individual autonomy and individual responsibility. Thus neoliberalism redefines all other ethical principles in terms of individual autonomy so that freedom, equality and justice are all defined in individualistic terms. Behavior based on alternative conceptions is considered a manifestation of a social pathology.
Both institutional and feminist economics contrast this conception of human nature with a view of human beings as relational. In institutional economics this view of human nature is the result of instincts or adaptations and thus biologically determined. The ethical foundation of such a view requires a meta-ethic of interpersonal responsibility that supports an ethic of care. This view rejects the neoliberal view of ethics as in fundamental conflict with human nature. An ethic of care redefines responsibility in terms of democratic processes to assign responsibility and provide necessary care for human beings to experience freedom, equality, and justice in terms of their ability to participate in the democratic processes that determine the just allocation of responsibility for providing the necessary care. Behavior based on the neoliberal conception of human behavior is a manifestation of social pathology.