Interview met Elena Pulcini, Department of Political and Social Sciences (DSPS), University of Florence, Italië.
I am a full professor of Social philosophy at the Florence University, DSPS. I teach at the Department of Philosophy in Florence.
The starting point for my main research path is a critique of modern individualism (the figure of homo oeconomicus) from two fundamental perspectives: the role of the passions in forming the subject and social bond, and the idea of difference (see my The Individual without Passions ((Pulcini, E. (2012). The individual without passions: modern individualism and the loss of the social bond (K. Whittle, Trans.). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.)) ). Owing to its attention to both these aspects, the ethics of care immediately struck me as very promising, not just because of its critical approach to the dominant liberal model, but also because it allows us to think normatively of a different idea of subject. Subsequently, and above all, the ethics of care has given me a precious viewpoint from which to put forward a philosophy of the global age (see my Care of the World ((Pulcini, E. (2013). Care of the world: fear, responsibility and justice in the global age (K. Whittle, Trans.). Dordrecht: Springer.)) ).
I discovered the ethics of care years ago on reading the text by Gilligan, In a Different Voice, which over a long period I also discussed in feminist and university groups. I found points of contact with two theoretical perspectives that were already present in my reflection: the feminist theory of difference (very widespread in Italy), and gift theory, inspired by Marcel Mauss.
I consider very convincing the vision that describes care theories, despite their differences, as a contextual ethics based on the importance of relationships and interdependence, attentive to the everyday and at the same time capable of affecting the social and political dimension. And, above all, I appreciate the idea of an ethics based on sentiments and emotions.
However, I think that this last point needs looking into further: understanding which emotions and feelings are at the basis of a caring attitude in my opinion enables us to free care from the risk of an altruistic and sentimentalist vision and to better define the idea of a “good” care. It is on this aspect that my present research concentrates.
The fact that people do not just act on the basis of interest or rational calculation, but also on affections, empathy and the consciousness of relationships. A fact that is now also confirmed by neuroscience. In this sense I have found further confirmation of what I had already learnt from gift theory and its radical critique of utilitarian individualism.
However, in the ethics of care, there is an aspect that I consider particularly important: the accent that it places, in some of its expressions in particular (e.g. Kittay), on the human being’s constitutive vulnerability and people’s reciprocal dependence on each other.
For the critique of modernity, the Frankfurt School. For the critique of the modern subject, I would like to cite feminism (especially the theory of difference), French deconstructionism (Derrida, Foucault), and the Collège de Sociologie (Bataille, Blanchot). The concept of care is not very present in philosophy, but it is possible to find some points of contact, as well as in Heidegger, also in authors who have greatly inspired my research path, such as Anders, Arendt, Lévinas, Jonas, Nancy, the communitarians (Taylor), and Mauss and the gift theorists (Caillé, Godbout); and last but not least the ethics of sympathy (Hume, Smith, Scheler etc.).[pullquote]Lees meer interviews met internationale zorgethici >>[/pullquote]
The works by Carol Gilligan, Joan Tronto, Eva Kittay, Virginia Held, Michael Slote, Sandra Laugier and Fiona Robinson.
I believe it is important to stress, as I hinted above, the research in the neurosciences, as well as the rediscovery of empathy (from Edith Stein and Max Scheler to Jeremy Rifkin), in order to consolidate the paradigm of care in its universalistic potentialities. I consider it fundamental not just to extend this paradigm to both sexes, and to the social and political dimension (as many care theorists already do), but also to show how it can bear fruits in proposing an ethic for the global age (an ethic for the environment and future generations).[pullquote]“Care should become a way of life, a way of dealing with all the aspects of life”[/pullquote]I think that the idea of care is not just decisive in order to show the partiality of the liberal and mainstream paradigm of justice, but also to integrate and enrich the concept of responsibility (which I try to do in my book Care of the World): with respect to the abstract principle of responsibility, care introduces the fundamental dimension of concrete commitment, work and practice
I think that care should become a way of life, a way of dealing with all the aspects of life, from the private to the social to the political. Against the pathologies of the contemporary age (individualism, narcissism, indifference, violence) care is a revolutionary word that can transform our vision of the world, and our relationships with each other, as well as with nature and the environment.
As a philosopher I am not very familiar with practical projects and initiatives based on care in Italy. Nevertheless, on several occasions I have been able to collaborate with various initiatives (local associations, training courses, volunteer communities) that seem to testify to a growing interest and liveliness in this perspective at a practical level too.
I think that it is an invaluable initiative to spread the ethics of care, and that the consortium can be very useful in this endeavour. I would like to add that, even though some fundamental texts on this topic have been translated into Italian and recently the attention of Italian scholars has grown, in Italy the ethics of care has not yet been paid the attention that it deserves. I hope that the CERC will make a significant contribution to this.