The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, and Global. By
Virginia Held. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 220p. $45.
In her latest book, Virginia Held elaborates on themes from previously
published articles to explicate and defend the ethics of care. For those
unfamiliar with this well-developed tendency of feminist thought, she
reviews its evolution from the 1980s writings of Sara Ruddick, Carol
Gilligan, and Nel Noddings to the more recent work of theorists including,
among many others, Eva Kittay, Annette Baier, Joan Tronto, and Selma
Sevenhuijsen. Held also underlines the differences between the ethics of
care and dominant moral and political perspectives, including Kantian
universalism, utilitarianism, liberal contract theory, and virtue theory.
She proposes that care is, compared with justice, the more basic value, on
the grounds that society can exist without the latter but not without the
former. She recommends that men and women participate equally in care
activities; that care infuse citizen as well as familial relations; and
that society beat back the imperializing thrust of the market ethos and
the conflict-mongering thrust of the militarized state to improve the
well-being of children, the elderly, the sick and disabled, the community,
culture, the environment, and deprived regions of the world.