Pedagogy for a Political Ethics of Care Louis Frankenthaler September 2009 Whatever "care" is--whether it is in the form of formal

services, cash payments, or personal relationships--if it does not enable people "to state an opinion," "to participate in decisions which affect their lives," and "to share fully in the social life of their community," then it will be unethical. We need an ethics of care which is based on the principle that to deny the human rights of our fellow human beings is to undermine our own humanity. We need an ethics of care which recognizes that anyone--whatever their level of communication or cognitive impairment-can express preferences. We need an ethics of care which aims to enable people to participate in decisions which affect them and to be involved in the life of their community. Most importantly, we need an ethics of care which, while starting from the position that everyone has the same human rights, also recognizes the additional requirements that some people have in order to access those human rights. The recognition of our difference (including our dependence), because of our impairments, can thus become a passport to the recognition of our common humanity. (Morris, 2001: 15). The above quote is extracted from an article on impairment and disability which argues in favor of the human rights based approach to understanding an ethics of care. In this paper I subscribe to this approach, which examines how able bodied (privileged) hegemony actually Others people with impairments, effectively disabling them and placing them outside the scope of political and social discourse and participations. The ethical treatment of people demands that they be enabled to participate in a democratic community. That is, when people are treated as objects and not as subjects, when they are tortured, denied access, imprisoned, selected for 'special treatment' at airports, denied protection as refugees then they are dehumanized and the society that does so loses its (if indeed it had it) humanity. Israel, unfortunately, is a society in which one can examine the way in which civilians are treated by the authorities and discern a distinct lack of the ethical caring advocated by Morris and implicitly and explicitly called for by the remainder of the theoreticians discussed below. * To me the primary example of the type of absence of ethical considerations is torture. This paper will not deal with torture exclusively but it certainly serves as a heuristic aid for examining ethics, ambiguity and privilege and as an introduction to our dilemma. Torture is an ultimate violation of the physical and psychological integrity of the victim. The tyrant or the torturer is in an ultimate position of privilege and believes his position to be correct and certain. The nature of an act of torture can be described as an act in which the victim is fundamentally denied humanity. The subjective position is effectively ended and the victim becomes an object and a tool in the hands of the perpetrator. Elaine Scarry goes to great lengths to describe or at least try to express this in a way that makes it conceivable to an ordinary reader. As difficult as this is she describes the "intense pain" that the torturer inflicts as "world-destroying" (29). She describes torture (and she primarily deals with the infliction of physical pains, the grotesque contortions of the body (47) but the psychological consequences are readily apparent) as the act of absolute power being imposed over a person from whom his agency is essentially erased. The Torturer is the agent, and the victim is reduced from a subject to an object. Of course there are those who support the use of torture under certain circumstances, yet the point is clear: torture is an act, implicitly and/or explicitly supported by society in which the absence of concern, care and compassion for the recipient of the torture by the individual torturer and by the society in which it takes place is manifest. The torture victim is often reduced to a subhuman, labeled a "ticking bomb", a "terrorist" or any other host of dehumanizing

The human rights community, in Israel and internationally confirms this observation with empirically based reports on human rights abuses.


characterizations that allow the removal of any sense of transcendence from that person. In essence the description of torture is a description of oppression on a wider scale and in other forms, one which Beauvoir describes in The Ethics of Ambiguity in this way, "The tyrant asserts himself as a transcendence; he considers others as pure immanences: he thus arrogates to himself the right to treat them like cattle" (37). Torture, is, in effect an element of tyranny which haunted Beauvoir particularly the "ungraspable brutality of what was going on in Algeria, by the systematic use of torture as a tactic against a whole people—and above all by her own complicity in it as a French citizen. She began to see herself through the eyes of others, as one of the oppressors, and to realize that, in spite of herself, she really was" (Kruks, 2005: 188-189). Kruks writes that Beauvoir's life was literally invaded by the French war in Algeria, its cruelties, and systematic violations of human rights including torture. The reference to how Beauvoir began to see herself repressnts the way that people through arriving at an ethically based realization decide to act for change. Change could be strictly personal but the nature of this topic almost 'dictates' that the change in people will or should have social and political implications. It was at this time; during the war that Beauvoir began to write her autobiography. Kruks describes the process of transformation that the French existentialist underwent as a "radical decentering of self and shift to the perspective of the other" (189). As we will see later this hints at the elements of a political ethics of care and compassion with Parallels in a ―pedagogy for the privileged‖ (Curry-Stevens). In her autobiography she writes: In 1957, the broken bones, the burns on the faces, on the genitals, the torn-out nails, the impalements, the cries of pain, the convulsions, they reached me, all right. . . . I could no long bear my fellow citizens ... whether I wanted to be or not, I was an accomplice of these people I couldn‘t bear to be in the same street with... I needed my self-esteem [mon estime] to go on living, and yet I was seeing myself through the eyes of women who had been raped twenty times, of men with broken bones, of crazed children: a Frenchwoman. . . . I wanted to stop being an accomplice in this war, but how? (1992, 89–91), (quoted in Kruks, 2005:189). In this paper I will try to illuminate a pedagogical approach to a feminist (care) ethics (see Mullet 1989, Held 1987, 1999) so as to place it within a political process of learning about one's own position as a privileged person and acting ethically for change. As described above, Simone de Beauvoir came to her understanding of her place in the oppression of the French war in Algeria through a process of coming to terms with her position in the privileged/oppressor society. This realization is similar to a recently developing body of literature called ―pedagogy for the privileged‖ (Curry-Stevens) in which the learner † is a member of a privileged class but she goes through a process of learning (i.e. in an adult learning class on human rights) in which they are brought to see themselves not only as a member of the oppressor class but also as possessors of agency with the ability to become active in political activism for change. An ethics of care as described by Held and contrasted to a contractual theory of justice is what I would call an initiator for a pedagogical process that should bring the caring and compassionate person to a point in which she engages in political social change activities (Porter). Similarly and perhaps more importantly Mullet‘s description of a theory of feminist ethics calling for ―a complex alteration of consciousness‖ (114) provides an ethical understanding both of what Curry-Stevens describes and what we learn from Beauvoir. The first task is to try to understand the situation that Beauvoir presents for us, as cited by Kruks and to understand that the process of emerging from it can be seen as a politically pedagogical process that rests squarely in a feminist ethical base. Similarly, I argue that ethics of caring, for instance, is at the core of a counter hegemonic effort to dismantle privilege (largely) through non-violence. Kruks, in the opening of her essay talks about privilege and in particular about Simone de Beauvoir‘s approach to the issue.

Her very interesting research is on social justice educators working with people of privilege in privileged societies.


Privilege is understood by progressives to be ―a term of moral disapprobation, for it bestows unjustifiable benefits on certain groups (and consequently on their individual members) by virtue of the exclusion of others. Privilege, then, is intrinsically a scarce resource. For some to enjoy a privilege entails a structural relationship in which the benefits one group enjoys are denied to another. Moreover, as Beauvoir notes in her Preface, such benefits are often obtained through the systematic exploitation of one group by another‖ (Kruks, 175). Furthermore on privilege, ―among progressives, including most feminists, the term privilege is used to describe structural differentiations that variously affect the life chances and well being of large groups, and that do so in ways that produce morally unacceptable differences in their levels of well being‖ (Kruks, 180). Curry-Steven‘s approach emerges largely from her training in social work, adult learning and social justice work. She mentions that privilege is a complex issue, and that there is no simple formula to define and classify the privileged – that is the oppressor is universally found in all of us thus the white female feminist (of which Sonia Kruks counts herself (179)) is both privileged and oppressed at the same time. So too a white disabled man or African American male or African American female, for that matter, who is the CEO of major company (see Curry-Stevens, 37). Thus Curry-Stevens‘ work is to construct a method to, as I see it, deal with the complexity of privilege and oppression through an approach where the privileged learner engages or is engaged in a transformative process in which he or she emerges and understands his or her place in oppression. Curry-Stevens explains this: Pedagogy for the privileged can be understood to involve a transformation from individualist and anticollectivist ideologies to those that are further to the left on the political spectrum, whereby one moves from self-centredness to an orientation to the common good and its related requirement of solidarity, from uncritical acceptance of inequality to questioning of the structures that render such inequality, and from disengagement to an enacted commitment to social justice. A companion part of the process is the embrace of civic virtues, including critical thinking, empathy, integrity, honesty, commitment to inclusion, and the courage to act on these values (40-41). Beauvoir indicates that she too has undergone a certain transformation at least in her understanding that her positions as a citizen of the French Republic instills her with a certain level of complicity in the horrors that France was perpetrating in Algeria at that time. (She hints at this in her Ethics of Ambiguity, see page 37). In essence the oppressor is he (I intentionally, at this point, do not use ‗he/she‘ because I accept the prominence of men in the oppressor class) who refuses to reject or repudiate his privilege (Beauvoir, 35) in this sense the tyrant is one who rejects change and is complacent in his privileged position even justifying in a variety of ways, refusing to undergo transformation (―conversion‖ according to Beauvoir (35)) and thus may be subject to the violent reaction of the oppressed (Beauvoir, 35). She indicates the intransigence of the oppressor/privileged, who goes so far so as to ―present himself as the defender of certain values‖ which are essentially the values of oppression (Beauvoir, 33) that anchor oppression in its place supported by a hegemony of the ruling classes, capitalism, gender oppression, racism, militarism, etc. in which the natural way of being is sought to be preserved by the oppressor. This being said there is a distinct ethical contra to this situation. First, the three part progression of an ethics of caring or of feminist justice that Mullet discusses is essential for not only understanding what is supposed to happen in a pedagogy for the privileged but also for developing the political compassion that Porter discusses. Her argument is that ―the emotion of compassion is central to the practice of an ethical life and thus compassionate political responses are integral to decent polities‖ (Porter, 99). Mullet‘s progression is occupied by what she seems to see as three feminist characteristics of ethics that ―calls for a complex alteration of consciousness‖ (Mullet 114). Leaving aside the arguments about consciousness that are endemic in the feminist discussion and in other radically progressive discourse, it is clear that there is an imperative that is tied up in social change. I


concur with the assessment of this as being a feminist characteristic (though not essentially feminine) because the course of human history has been largely dominated by a very clear masculine hegemony (see Connell and a number of his critics and interlocutors, Connell and Messerschmitdt, on this topic), but primarily because I see feminism as a radical approach to ameliorating the social and political maladies that affect this world. Few other theories that lack a feminist approach have managed to link the personal with the political in the way that feminism does and which is necessary if we want to progress to a situation in which change can occur. So the trio that Mullet mentions is absolutely necessary to any politically progressive effort. ―Moral sensitivity‖ is the process by which silence is broken and we repudiate ―our moral callousness and see the violence around us‖ and we come to a point of awareness of the injustice about us which we (all of us) perpetuate up to this point of awareness. Moral awareness is a call to stop going about business as usual as if the injustice did not exist (Mullet, 114,115). Next, ―ontological shock‖ in which the existence or state of being of injustice moves the person so as to enable him or her to displace ―the world we have taken for granted‖ and open ―up whole new areas of ambiguity and uncertainty‖ and to formulate ―new possibilities for action. In short‖ she writes, ―it puts everything into question.‖ This is an essential for social transformation (Mullet, 115). Thirdly, praxis is ―a collective understanding of the transformative possibilities within a given social context‖ (Mullet, 116). It involves shifting from an individualistic perspective of the world to a more collective approach which marks the approach of those ‗truly committed to liberation‘ from a state of affairs that while being durable is not immutable. Change can occur both in the individual and collective sense and these two are integrally connected to political action against oppression. What emerges is ―a moral agent, who is depicted constructing a moral perspective within the context of a collective endeavor to transform existing social arrangements‖ (Mullet, 116). In other words the person, this moral agent, is the privileged person whom we have discussed up to this point and this same privileged person is the person who continues to reject not only the particular instances of oppression, torture, unjust treatment of immigrants that Porter discusses, lack of health care etc., but also the system that allows these to exist. For me it is Held who, in her repudiation of a contract theory of justice in favor of an ethics of care goes far to achieving a systematic negation of the hegemonic theory of liberalism which favors impersonal relationships between people to a relationship of empathy, real empathy in which one must see and be seen as a person, an infant, ―totally dependent on others for years of affection and care‖ (Held 1999, 294). Liberalism, she asserts, overlooks the personal in the political, the fact that a collective theory must maintain an understanding of individuals with needs that are of no difference from those of others. It is care, she tells us, which is ―the most basic moral value‖ without which survival is impossible. It is an attractive theory and I certainly agree with it. But to me it seems it can also assist an utilitarian advocate of torture, for instance in arguing the case for torture in the so called ―ticking bomb‖ scenario in which, as the story goes, torture is determined to be a necessity to save a large amount of lives from an immanent threat of terror. That is, the torturer cares about the thousands and sacrifices the one the tortured. For this reason I think that Mullet and the others, even Beauvoir who recognizes that violence may be used at times, offer a more realistic political possibility, a praxis, in the Frierian sense, in which theory and practice come together. It is, I think, in this manner that international law is able, via a contractual process to implement or codify an ethical imperative (of care) that gravitates against the utilitarian approach and thus, in international humanitarian and human rights law introduces an absolute prohibition to torture. Finally, in examining Porter together with Curry-Stevens we see how the ethical issues that we are discussing become political. Porter quoted Held (1987) ―I am supporting a strong notion of compassionate justice that accepts responsibilities toward 'particular others' who can include ‗actual starving children in Africa with whom one feels empathy‘ (Porter, 108) and I would take this even further, again using Held who hints at the need for a political outlet to caring for the particular other. She notes that our capacity for caring is limited. Yet ―we need moral guidelines for ordering our priorities‖ (Held, 1987: 119). Held,


(1987) points out the fact that the caretaker or the caring person in a political system also has the power to withdraw care (119) hinting, I think at the possibility or the understanding that we cannot base an ethical political system on the whims of a single person rather it does need to be given some sort of foundational support in a political/policy/legislative process. For absent a base of political and legal support for an ethical proposal of feminist justice we are left with an unpredictable regime that can drift – with the impunity attendant in such a system – to tyranny of the kind that Beauvoir discusses. For that reason, both Porter and Curry-Stevens point out that the process of having a society based on rights, democracy, a repudiation of unjust privilege and tyranny is hard work. Even in societies with strong foundations of democracy it is not simple. In a society like Israel, democratic, at least on the surface, its political infrastructure cares for one class of people to form the opposite of what we would think of as a universal caring society, rather it is an ethnocracy‡ which is, as I mentioned above, is a dangerous antithesis to justice and an ethics of care. Porter, I think, provides us with a political expression of caring in her formula for political compassion. This approach is designed to enable the caring person and the practitioner of care to act politically. Curry-Stevens provides us with the pedagogical tool, in a manner of speaking, to go after those who are privileged and engage with them (the importance of with cannot be overemphasized, because as Kruks notes and so too Beauvoir, we, the activists among us cannot refute our own position as privileged) in a process of transformative work. What is most striking to me and most useful is that Porter, to reduce her work to one sentence, is trying to demonstrate that compassion is not meant to be understood as a therapy for the privileged in which the privileged person slips into the skin of the oppressed and thus metamorphasizes into an oppressed person. She writes, ―The compassionate person does not and should not try to actually share the other‘s suffering. Such appropriation almost always leads to misunderstanding, and romantic, masochistic, or mystifying identifications... The compassionate person is pained by another‘s distinctive pain and acts to relieve it‖ (Porter, 101). That is, ―we need to concentrate our attention on the other‘s plight in order to demonstrate compassion‖ (Porter, 102). But, actualizing compassion is a threestage process for porter and for Curry-Stevens the pedagogical process is comprised of 10 steps. But, like Mullet, Kruks and Beauvoir, we see that ethical formulation is a process that one goes through. It can be an individual process but more likely there are helpers or instigators, which is what we see in Porter and CurryStevens. Porter: I have suggested that most often, compassion is understood as feeling with a sufferer and imaginatively identifying with these feelings to become a co-sufferer in order to respond appropriately. My theorization of compassion… is based on my understanding of a threestage process of feeling pain, discerning needs, and responding wisely. I maintain that each process is necessary for the fullest expression of compassion. First, the compassionate person feels the pain of another, and in experiencing some anguish becomes a co-sufferer, whether this other is known personally to her or not. Second, the compassionate person tries to identify imaginatively with the other in order to understand the sufferer‘s viewpoint on her suffering and what might relieve her pain. The sufferer is not a passive victim. Hence, in this stage, the compassionate person attends to her interests, listens, heeds, and judges perceptively in order to discern how best to respond to the sufferer‘s needs and minimize the chance of misjudgment. Third, the compassionate person responds to the suffering and needs of the sufferer with compassionate practical wisdom (103).

See on the topic of Ethnocracy and Israel any number of Oren Yiftachel‘s work, such as his latest book, Ethnocracy Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine, U. Penn Press (2006) or this article in Middle East Report 223 - Summer 2002, on line at


Curry-Stevens‘ work is procedurally rich and detailed and this paper does not leave enough room to to fully delve into it. However it is sufficient to say that her study involves the work of educators and learners who are ―unlearning domination. Deciding to work against relations of domination was understood as a spiritual conversion from an individual orientation to an interdependent connection with concerns for all of humanity‖ (Curry-Stevens 40). Her process is one that recognizes, like Mullet says above, the need to question our hegemonic assumptions. It first shakes confidence and then builds confidence (Curry-Stevens, Table 1. p. 51). It creates a state of ambiguity for the learner but at the same time a belief in the possibility of change is omnipresent. It is a sort of faith in the ―capacity both to unlearn domination and to exercise agency and move us toward greater social justice by challenging inequality‖ (54). Porter reminds us that ―compassion in care ethics focuses on people‘s pain and specific needs, but within a specific context, it requires also the realization of human rights… A struggle for justice and human rights is part of striving toward a compassionate society‖ (Porter, 106). Conclusion: Within the discussion on process and on shaking confidence and questioning truths it becomes clear that Beauvoir is correct about ambiguity, as I understand it. That is the oppressor or the privileged is comfortable in his position and accepts it as natural. Beauvoir speaks of the ―two clans‖ that are created by oppression, the clan that accepts it passively and that which moves society forward and works against the certainty of his position which the oppressor seeks to set (―Freedom and Liberation‖ 30). ―Oppression tries to defend itself by its utility,‖ (34) by creating a certainty of its necessity. Beauvoir talks about this stating that the oppressor rules by declaring and making it believable that the products of an oppressive regime are natural and supposed to be; the oppressor is the ―curator of the given world‖ (33). Against the certainty of the tyrant who ascribes to himself the right to treat the oppressed as mere animals, ―of the ambiguous condition which is that of all men, he retains for himself the only aspect of a transcendence which is capable of justifying itself; for the others, the contingent and unjustified aspect of immanence‖ (37) is ambiguity. The question then is how to translate this into political action. The proposals offered by CurryStevens and Porter provide a way to develop counter-privilege action based squarely in an ethics of care framework. In fact, it is highly unlikely that any other ethical framework can be seen as the basis for what Curry-Stevens and Porter are proposing. A contractual (liberal) approach does not provide the personalpolitical basis for transformative work in society or in individuals. Rather change essentially is achieved by force of law. While law is essential when it is not based in or reflects ethical caring its foundations are weakened by a majoritarian approach to democracy. Similarly, as I indicated above an exclusively care based approach may be insufficient to secure the kind of political behavior needed to protect those people in need of care, who are, in the end every member of society. The question we need to ask is this: in a society of laws, what kind of ethical approach do we want to inform the creation and enforcement of the law? References:
Beauvoir, Simone de (1947/2006) The Ethics of Ambiguity. ( The version referred to in this essay is PDF prepared by the author *Connell, RW, (1995) Masculinities. Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin *Connell, R., and J. Messerschmidt. 2005. Hegemonic masculinity: Rethinking the concept. Gender & Society 19:82959. *Curry-Stevens, Ann (2007). New forms of transformative education: Pedagogy for the privileged. Journal of Transformative Education, 5(1), 33-58. *Held, Virginia. (1987). Feminism and moral theory. In Women and moral theory, eds. Eva Feder Kittay and Diana T. Meyers. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield. *Held, Virginia (1999) ―Liberalism and the Ethics of Care,‖ in Feminist Ethics and Politics, ed. Claudia Card. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1999. *Kruks, Sonia (2005) Simone de Beauvoir and the Politics of Privilege. Hypatia, Vol. 20 No. 1. *Morris, Jenny, (2001) Impairment and Disability: Constructing an Ethics of Care That Promotes Human Rights, Hypatia, Vol. 16 No. 4. *Mullet, Sheila, (1989) Shifting Perspective: A New Approach to Ethics, in Feminist perspectives, philosophical essays on method and morals / edited by Lorraine Code, Sheila Mullett, and Christine Overall Imprint Toronto: University of Toronto Press * Porter, Elisabeth, (2006) Can Politics Practice Compassion? Hypatia – Vol. 21, No. 4 *Scarry, Elaine, (1985) The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press