Care Ethics and the Ethics of Care, in Risk

Care ethics derives from the moral philosophy of Carol Gilligan ( and a feminist understanding of ethics. You can read her original text from 1982 here: IN A DIFFERENT VOICE

The idea of ‘voice’ and ‘listening’ is critical to an understanding of care ethics as well as the rejection of deontological ethics and masculinist understandings of power (eg. AIHS BoK Chapter on ethics).

It is helpful to also read Nell Noddings on moral education and care ( Similarly, you won’t find anything in care ethics that supports the nonsense language of Reason etc on Just Culture. Again, a masculinist understanding of culture enables power and a focus on systems over the well-being of persons.

Unfortunately, there is no mention of care ethics or an ethic of care in any of the manuals by Safety on psychosocial ‘hazards’, indeed, the masculinist language of ‘hazards’ and ‘controls’ says it all about this silly venture by Safety into all things psychosocial. Similarly, there is no feminist language at all in any of the nonsense on Codes of Practice on Psychosocial hazards:

Indeed, none of this goop mentions anything about care ethics or an ethic of care. When Safety talks about ethics it talks about ‘duty’ and, this is not about persons but rather duty to systems.

The first disposition in care ethics is to NOT focus on regulation, rules or codes but rather persons, relationships, Socialitie and helping. Any talk of absolutes, zero and compliance is anathema to care ethics. This is not how we should be oriented to persons. People are NOT objects in a system, they are not numbers to count, they are not about operational performance. Systems serve humans NOT humans serve systems.

Orientation and disposition is key. You can see a good focus on feminist ethics here:

BTW, you won’t find anything like this in Women in Safety, that essentially supports zero and a masculinist ethic (

It is impossible to support zero ideology and the notion of care for fallible people. Indeed, apart from SPoR there is no articulation in the safety industry about what to do about fallibility There is not relationship in absolutes or perfectionism.

We see in Safety the association of zero with ‘life saving rules’, ‘golden’ and ‘cardinal rules’ ( ). Simply more affirmation and language for absolutes, the safety way.

Care comes from a focus on social relationships not abstract rules-based, principle-based duties. Decision making should be person-focused not systems focused. Orientation and disposition towards others is essential rather than trying to make more efficient systems or performance.

Care is not some emotional or feelings-based thing but rather a demonstrated method that comes from an orientation and disposition towards persons. The foundation for leadership and care is in how one is oriented towards others NOT in some sooky notion of feeling. Being a being in care is about moving in the hyphen towards the other in i-thou. It is a practical, positive e-motion founded in relationship not principles and duty.

You can read about why we should care about care ethics here:

Life and Work – Feminine Perspectives from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.

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