June 2015: Choosing to Care and Caring about Choice: An Interdisciplinary Conversation (S98)


Hosted by School of Law & Politics, Centre for Ethics Law and Society, and School of Healthcare Sciences

Tuesday 16 June 2015, 2pm – 6pm

Places for this workshop are limited. Please book at http://caringaboutchoice.eventbrite.co.uk

Embracing diverse approaches, we seek to explore the difficult and often conflicting perspectives that the concept of choice invites in respect of the delivery and receipt of care, and the structuring of caring relations. Placing strong purchase on the connect and disconnect of health and social policy formation with the embodied experiences of those delivering and receiving care, as well as policies directed towards future care, this workshop seek to interrogate the modern politics of care to explore how the concept of ‘choice’ arises as an ethical concept directed towards the well-being of vulnerable populations. Holding the aim of fostering joint future working partnerships, this workshop invites active participation from scholars across Cardiff University to engage with key contributions drawing on health sciences, law and politics, philosophy and the social sciences.

In an era where every aspect of daily life is presented as increasingly optional, our bodies, destinies and future happiness all seem to hang perilously around the concept of choice. With the promise of greater alternatives in public transportation, healthcare and education, “choice” has become a new political currency and social life is assumed to get better with its increase. In the developed world at least, this intensification and multiplication of choice is real in many respects; our lives have become increasingly mobilised and our lifestyles more diverse. The market offers a cornucopian supply of goods, services and technologies for society to consume and information now sits at our fingertips – it can seem that every dimension of our lives is a matter for our selection. So, as a means of enhancing our individual freedom and autonomy, it seems that choice has been elevated as a crucial expression of our modern liberty: the crux of the matter – a good in itself.

Are matters, however, so benign? Is ‘choice’ what it seems—what it is sold as? As an expression of freedom, the concept of choice can contribute to a rather distorted view as to what options are really available, the extent of control that ‘we’ hold over the future and significantly which choices are open to whom and on what terms. Feminist scholars have long demonstrated how notions of individual choice can all too often be used as a rationalisation for ignoring the ‘inequalities in existing social conditions concerning dependency’ (Fineman, 2004). ‘Choice’, it seems, can be a discursive strategy for the masking of structured power relations, and can lead to the encroaching of neoliberalism to the domestic sphere of care (Mol, 2008). Feminist critiques of austerity, for

example, particularly highlight how ‘the home’ remains a gendered space, and point to the historical femininities being recuperated in austerity discourse (Bramall, 2013), paying close attention to how the discourses of “crisis” subtly shape ‘choices’ to care, volunteer and do welfare promoting work. The workshop hopes to address, non-exhaustively, a range of questions around the rhetoric of choice as is implicated in the context of care and caring relations:

Such concerns and questions sit at the heart of this workshop, ‘Choosing to Care and Caring about Choice’, jointly hosted by the School of Law and Politics, and the School of Healthcare Sciences.

More information: HayesL@cardiff.ac.uk, PriaulxN@cardiff.ac.uk, SakellariouD@cardiff.ac.uk (organisers)


Rebecca Bramall, The Cultural Politics of Austerity: Past and Present in Austere Times (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Claire Chambers, Sex, Culture and Justice: The Limits of Choice (Penn State University Press, 2007)

Martha Fineman, The Autonomy Myth (New Press: 2004)

Penny Griffin (2015) ‘Crisis, austerity and gendered governance: a feminist perspective’ 109 Feminist Review 49-72 (see further special issue of Feminist Review: feminism and the politics of austerity, 2015, issue 109)

John Hills, Mike Brewer, Stephen Jenkins, Ruth Lister, Ruth Lupton, Stephen Machin, Colin Mills, Tariq Modood, Teresa Rees and Sheila Riddell (National Equality Panel). 2010. An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK. Government Equalities Office.

A Mol, (2008). The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice. London: Routledge.

Marina Strinkovsky, ‘Comment: When women pay for austerity, we all suffer’, Politics.co.uk, Monday, 23 March 2015. Available at: http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2015/03/23/comment-when-women-pay-for-austerity-we-all-suffer

  • Is choice a mythic mechanism for the commodification of bio-material and socio-material life in a neoliberal market order? And if so, with what implications for the politics and practices of care?
  • What kind of politics does caring about choice now necessitate?
  • What kind of mechanisms allow the construction of the right, or of the responsibility, to choose?
  • How is concern for choice positioned within discourses of care and what are the tensions between the two?
  • Is individual choice a requirement and / or an outcome of effective care?
  • Since care is imperative to human existence, to what extent ought it to be regulated as though the exchange of care is an optional human endeavour?
  • How might greater choice enhance individual / collective capacities for care?
  • How might care be conceived of in ways which do not intrinsically limit or constrain individual choice, and does this matter?
  • Are there residual practices of collective choice that we might study?