Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2010

Care Ethics and Markets: A View from Feminist Economics

Julie A. Nelson

May 2010

Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University


It is common to think of care ethics and justice ethics as being opposed to each other, and also to think of economic life as being opposed to social life. As a result, it may be hard to see how care ethics, seen as interpersonal, could be applicable to business, when the latter is perceived as asocial. This essay uncovers the origins of these beliefs in unhelpful dualistic cognitive habits and in gender-biases in the development of the discipline of economics. In particular, feminist analysis reveals the mythical nature of both "economic man" and the belief in mechanical "profit maximization." The essay calls for unveiling and recognizing the ethical and connected dimensions that already characterize business life, and including these in thinking about how to create a more humane economy.