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The Search for Real Utopias in the Future of Care and Social Reproduction

Lookup NU author(s): Julie Monroe, Dr Judith Watson


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The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted social and economic inequalities in UK care provision. While women are less likely to die from Covid-19 than men (Klein et al., 2020; Wenham et al., 2020), they are more likely to be undertaking unpaid care work (Andrew et al., 2020). Unpaid work in the UK – including childcare and adult care - has been valued at £1.01tn, or 56% of GDP (ONS, 2016). It is an important social policy issue, negatively impacting labour market participation (ONS, 2013). This chapter explores the future of care and social reproduction through Erik Olin Wright’s (2010) Envisioning Real Utopias. We respond to Wright’s (2010, p. 34) call to diagnose obstructions in ‘the world of the actual’ in order to create the context in which to explore ‘the world of the possible’, framing our envisioning of a real utopia within a feminist political economy perspective to critique the ‘world of the actual’ (Wright, 2020, p. 34) where institutions (e.g. social welfare) are key structural factors (Tepe-Belfrage and Steans, 2016). We do this using data from two recent qualitative UK studies of care and social reproduction, in order to address the questions: What forms of social reproduction will intensify or change? What should the future of care look like? Drawing on Wright’s example of non-profit services within the Quebec social economy (day-care centres providing childcare and eldercare home services), the chapter concludes by discussing the potential for community and civil society organisations to provide solutions in the UK context.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Monroe J, Watson J

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 15th European Sociological Association Conference (ESA 2021)

Year of Conference: 2021

Online publication date: 31/08/2021

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

Publisher: European Sociological Association