Thelen, Tatjana. Care as Social Organisation: Creating, Maintaining and dissolving significant relations.
Anthropological Theory 15 (4): 497-515.
Although increasingly debated in public, scholarly discourses on care remain fragmented. This is not only due to the scientific division of labor, but also to different national research traditions as well as to categories that link predefined relations to specific practices. In this article I set out to establish care practices as vital elements of social organization in order to overcome commonplace dichotomies such as privatepublic, good–bad, modern–traditional, and micro–macro. In order to facilitate making care a central element of anthropological theory, I revisit diverse theoretical frameworks from Marxism and feminism to disability, social security and humanitarianism studies. With the decline of Marxist anthropology, the awareness it once raised regarding ‘public’ aspects of care has virtually vanished. Today practices of care are mostly discussed in kinship debates, with the result that the importance of care for other social relations is underestimated. Finally, I propose a processual conceptualization of care with a focus on practices that can enhance our understanding of the links and overlaps between relationships that are usually analysed within distinct spheres of social life, such as economics and politics.