When a Commodity is Not Exactly a Commodity
Every week, the journal Science complements its published articles with one or more “Perspectives” offering a brief and informal summary of research on an important topic. I was thrilled to be invited to submit one of these recently, and chose to focus on the impact of personal interactions and emotional connections on the economics of care services.
Forced to boil down the soup I have been studying for years to a scant page and a half, I was nonetheless pleased with the resulting concentrate, entitled “When a Commodity is Not a Commodity.”
I particularly liked a phrase that came to me late at night while I was responding to an editor’s query–one that offers a kind of funky analogy to the Heisenberg principle that efforts to measure the location of something can change its location. Care work typically involves a kind of exchange that changes the exchangers.
I did not have the time or space to fully develop links to ongoing research in behavioral or experimental economics, and am hoping that my friends, including UMass Economics graduate students Phil Mellizo and Wesley Pech, might be willing to offer some comments on these…
The graphic here is based on a cheap knockoff of a sign I bought from a tourist kiosk at Covent Garden while at a conference in London last weekend. I added the red letters, which effectively convey the main point of the article. Care work motivated by love as well as money, and the interactions between these two are complicated.
I began work on a manuscript now entitled Economies of Care while visiting at the Russell Sage Foundation in 2005-2006. Slow going, but I’m now up to Chapter 6. I gave a presentation based on this at the GeNet conference I attended in London and will soon post a description of that event along with the bare bones of my powerpoint presentation.