An Alternative to Socio-Economic Injustice: Perspectives for a Culture of Care Post COVID-19

An Alternative to Socio-Economic Injustice: Perspectives for a Culture of Care Post COVID-19

Susan E. Seigel, Debby E. Flickinger
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8339-5.ch001
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Individuals have responded with a variety of responses to crises such as war, natural disasters, famine, and pandemics. These are times when people have pulled together to overcome these challenges, or sometimes have divided themselves ideologically, politically, and behaviorally. This chapter addresses some of those characteristics within the United States affecting national and global relationships in the 21st century. The authors support the perception that there is a need for behavioral and cultural change—caring. Specifically, the authors propose an alternative paradigm: the development and sustainability of a “culture of care” as an interdisciplinary approach for national behaviors and international collaboration. The work of two American scholars, Nel Noddings and Jean Watson, center on the importance of the philosophy of care, caring theory, and practice in education and nursing. Going forward to more international crises such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and poverty and hunger, the authors look to a more equitable and collaborative means to address these problems.
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We the People

As the United States Constitution was being written in 1787, disparities existed among its citizens. The stage was already set for a future of social injustices: systemic racism, sexism, xenophobia, and potential violence amidst the freedoms and liberties for the American people. These characters attributes of a new, young nation have evolved to define what is an American in the 21st century.

Historically, Europeans often viewed their American allies as “rugged individualists.” First used in 1898, the term, Rugged individualism refers to “the practice or advocacy of individualism in social and economic relations emphasizing personal liberty and independence, self-reliance, resourcefulness, self-direction of the individual, and free competition in enterprise” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. (n.d.). This concept applied within a capitalistic society—where competition is encouraged –— has the potential to create communities that are self-consuming.

Rights and Liberties Verses Responsibilities and Civic Duties

Over the course of 234 years of “independence” Americans have tested their Constitutional rights and liberties many times over. While slavery was formally abolished in 1865 by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, although only gave African Americans the rights of citizenship in 1868. Many black Americans did not have voting rights until the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed. Women’s right to vote only came in 1919 when Congress passed the 19th Amendment. Although voting is the cornerstone of a democracy, voting rights are still being challenged today as state laws are once again limiting voting options and redistricting diverse populations to enhance partisan politics.

Undoubtedly the United States of America was founded on a revolution against the ruling (British) government. Moreover, many of our nation’s rights and liberties were secured though civil disobedience and protests. However, over time and into the 21st century, these protests and demonstrations have become more frequent and violent confronting individual rights and liberties. Under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, gun ownership, including AK-47 military assault rifles, has increased since 2019, thereby setting records for gun violence in the United States.

Figure 1.


Source: Erin Grinshteyn and David Hemenway, “Violent Death Rates in the US Compared to Those of the Other High-Income Countries, 2015.” (Updated Jan. 7, 2021)

Mass shootings have become commonplace in American culture. “According to the Gun Violence Archive there have been more than 370 mass shootings in the US… in 2019, with mass shooting defined as any incident in which four or more people, not including the shooter, were shot but not necessarily killed. That’s an average of about eight mass shootings a week.” (Lopez, 2019, para. 3). There is a correlation with ways the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced social and economic policy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Caregiver: An individual who cares for the needs of another.

Sustainability: Is the enduring or maintaining a desired practice or system of lifestyle or praxis.

Community: A collective of individuals who agree to shared values, behaviors, and make those an established practice as a group.

Culture: The values, traditions, and behaviors that are found within a given society.

Caritas: A Greek word meaning cherish and love.

Caring-For: The act of an individual or individuals who consciously provide and support the needs of others.

Dialogue: A practice of communication through spoken language, writing, or other means that is open-ended and whose main purpose is to better understand others’ perspectives.

Modeling: A way of showing or displaying behaviors in shaping a practice.

Altruistic: The behavior that one believes is humane and helpful to others.

Confirmation: The practice of approving and giving validation confirmation towards one’s behavior.

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