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"Care, Not Capital: Towards a Planetary Economy"

 by  Mikala Hyldig Dal

Re-Assembling Motherhood(s)

On Radical Care and Collective Art as Feminist Practices
2021, Onomatopee

“Feminist Futures”

2024, Athens University 





“The devaluation of care work and the depletion of natural resources go hand in hand, reflecting a global economy whose insatiable hunger for profit dictate its priorities, with cruel consequences for the vast majority of the world’s population – all species included.


Patriarchal capitalism’s grand deceit is that care work is free of charge and that nature is free to loot. Nancy Fraser and Sarah Leonard (2016) contend that this is the central concern of feminism, for “the gendered separation of social reproduction from economic production constitutes the principal institutional basis for women’s subordination in capitalist societies.”

We must maintain that care work is the foundation for any economy. To this, I count reproductive labour in an expanded sense, encompassing pregnancy and birth-giving, as well as the care work offered in families based on (queer) kinship.

Care is a vast and beautiful concept intrinsically linking care for our fellow beings, self-care, and Earth-care because each conditions the other. The Care Collective’s (2020) and María Puig de la Bellacasa’s (2017) are among the voices that seek to formulate a language for caring, a doing situated beyond the realm of semantics. Economy in this context means the sustainable extraction of resources and the just, solidarity-based distribution of the same. The care-based economy expresses a long-term commitment to the lives of the many, and an end to the open season for short-term profit benefiting the few.

In her essay The Care-Centered Economy: Rediscovering What Has Been Taken For Granted, Ina Praetorius (2015) beautifully traces the history of movements that approach economics in this light. Reorienting economics according to its basic definition of 'preserving and sustaining life and the quality of life' brings economics back into harmony with itself . The historic exclusion of reproductive and uncompensated labor from the field of economics makes it a weak science; and much of what happens within the current sphere of finance takes place outside the realm of economics (e.g. producing “goods” that do not meet sustainable needs, often at the cost of preserving life and quality of life).

In reflecting on political agency and the making of societies, philosopher Hannah Arendt uses the notion of “natality.” She draws on the process of birth and birth-giving as an innate basis for the possibility of new beginnings in a wider societal context (Arendt, 2006). Can we follow this linkage between the (internal) processes, recurrent states of becoming, growth and shifting abilities of our biological bodies with the processes that define the political body of society? Praetorius (2015, p. 65) invites us to think of natality as a lived reality that enables us to orient ourselves beyond ready-made identities, and to instead base our interactions on alternating forms of relatedness, and quoting Arendt, to weave one’s life like a thread into a fabric that you did not create yourself. She connects the term with Andreas Weber’s (2013) notion of “enlivenment” that expands the idea of creative life to an entangled and diverse biosphere bringing forth multilayered, multi-shaped, and multi-bodied types of consciousness.


Enlivenment also opens up an understanding of ourselves as both in and of this world and so has the potential to bridge the dualist gap at the heart of “normal politics” (i.e. the traditional way of conceptualizing the political).

I propose we can understand motherhood in a concrete, as well as in an expanded sense: expressing the symbiotic interdependence of nurturing the life of the Other within your Self. This second reading can include men, transgender, two-spirited, and non-binary people, representing the full array of human identities, expanding the category of care along with our imaginations and senses of selves. Timothy Morton’s (2010) queer ecology urges us to look to our fellow species to dismantle normative constraints in our thinking of biological sex; animals and plants are often hermaphroditic sex-changers, as (sexual) attributes emerge as re/actions to enveloping lifeworlds. A similar fluidity in the human socio-sexual world of ex/change can undo power structures that become deadlocked in a worldview defined by binaries.”

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