Tom Malleson, PhD recently published an interesting article on interdependency, from a care ethical point of view. He argues that taking interdependency seriously would lead to profound changes in our culture, our central political concepts, and even our major institutions. We contacted Tom Malleson for an insight into the background of the article and the author.
“I’m one of those academics who is always curious, always jumping around between disciplines, like some kind of intellectual nomad, between the fields of political science, philosophy, sociology, political economy, and feminist theory.
One strand of my research interest revolves around the study of Real Utopias, which are institutions designed to be both normatively emancipatory and empirically grounded. My interests in this area include things like economic democracy, the solidarity economy, basic income, participatory budgeting, carbon taxes, universal caregiving, and so on.
Another strand of my research interest involves certain debates in contemporary political philosophy. One of the major positions in political theory, as well as in the mainstream public, is that of libertarianism. I had long been uncomfortable with libertarian ideas – which conventionally start from a mysterious “state of nature” of independent men walking around in the woods, creating private property, and trading with other men. Where are the women in this picture? Where are the kids? Where are the disabled and the elderly, in short – where were the real human beings?”
“Thinking through these questions led me to feminist philosophy, and in particular, the work of ethics of care feminists. For them, a fundamental feature of human life is relationality and interdependency. Human beings are not born free. We do not emerge from the birth canal fully attired in suit and tie. In fact, human beings are born helpless, vulnerable, and inherently dependent on others. To the extent that we become free, it is due to the support, nurturance, and care provided to us by others.
Delving into this area made me realize all the myriad ways in which our current society is still tied to old ideas of “independence”; it is woven into our culture, our basic concepts, even our economic institutions. Yet once we come to grip with the fact of our actual interdependence, many of these old ideas and practices will need to change. That’s what this paper is all about.”