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Posted 19 November 2009

The marginalisation and devaluing of intimate care work

“We must take seriously the objective of freeing both women and men from a level of commitment to paid work that is incompatible with meeting the love and care needs of others,” says Professor Kathleen Lynch, one of the co-authors of a new book: Affective Inequality - Love, Care and Injustice (Palgrave Macmillan 2009).

Based on a series of studies of primary care relations, from the perspective of the care giver and the care receiver, the book explores the marginalisation of intimate care work, its public devaluation, and associated gender and economic inequalities.

“Our findings show that carers are acutely aware of the low public status of caring,” says Professor Lynch from the UCD School of Social Justice. “Women and men, lone parents and couples, carers of older people, sick people or children, were all of one mind about the low public status of care work. They feel invisible and undervalued in their care work.”

According to the authors, certain kinds of care, what they term ‘love labour’, are inalienable and uncommodifiable. This means that all care work cannot be allocated to public services or market-based providers. “We are not denying that people contracted to care for others can also establish long-term loving relationships, but one cannot commit oneself by contract to love another,” says Professor Lynch.

Affective Inequality - Love, Care and Injustice (Palgrave Macmillan 2009), co-authored by Professor Kathleen Lynch, Dr John Baker, and Dr Maureen Lyons, offers a new perspective on equality by highlighting and exploring affective equality, that aspect of equality that is concerned with relationships of love, care and solidarity. It shows how intimate care is undermined by inequalities of material support, time and public recognition.


Affective Equality is a sequel to Equality: From Theory to Action (2004) co-authored by John Baker, K Lynch, S Cantillon and J Walsh of UCD School of Social Justice. In response to the international recognition Equality: From Theory to Actionreceived in terms of providing a framework for developing a more just society, a second edition (2009) has also been published by Palgrave Macmillan, UK.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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The marginalisation and devaluing of intimate care work