Care and the Commons

Nancy Folbre
3 February 2008

Much of my work focuses on the social organization of care. I am especially interested in the parallels between care work and other economic resources that are not privately owned or priced on the market. For more on these parallels– including some videotaped lectures by six great speakers, check out the Forum on Social Wealth.

You can read my short essay “Care and the Commons” here or listen to a podcast here. – Check out the Forum on Social Wealth.

Here’s the gist: We should pay more attention to the unpaid work provided on behalf of family, friends, and neighbors. Because it is freely given, it is often taken for granted. But its supply is not infinite. Our competitive market economy often penalizes those who devote time and energy to care.

I designed the image above, the “hand of care,” to symbolize three different kinds of commons. The natural environment is represented by the sun, blue waves of water, and green tree fingers with brown bones.

The knowledge/technology commons is represented by our decimal counting system, placed on the thumb, the part of our hand that allows us to grip and use tools. The care commons is represented both by the hand itself, which has in a sense been “dipped into” and colored by the other commons…but also by the figure behind the sun, which appears to be pregnant with that yellow orb.

OK, it’s slightly over the top, but I like the tattoo effect. I’d much rather have my hand done this way than get a manicure.

One comment on "Care and the Commons"

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    Michael Ash

    Why mu?

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