An eye-opening reckoning with the care economy, from its roots in racial capitalism to its exponential growth as a new site of profit and extraction.
Since the earliest days of the pandemic, care work has been thrust into the national spotlight. The notion of care seems simple enough. Care is about nurturing, feeding, nursing, assisting, and loving human beings. It is “the work that makes all other work possible.” But as historian Premilla Nadasen argues, we have only begun to understand the massive role it plays in our lives and our economy.
Nadasen traces the rise of the care economy, from its roots in slavery, where there was no clear division between production and social reproduction, to the present care crisis, experienced acutely by more and more Americans. Today’s care economy, Nadasen shows, is an institutionalized, hierarchical system in which some people’s pain translates into other people’s profit.
Yet this is also a story of resistance. Low-wage workers, immigrants, and women of color in movements from Wages for Housework and Welfare Rights to the Movement for Black Lives have continued to fight for and practice collective care. These groups help us envision how, given the challenges before us, we can create a caring world as part of a radical future.