Feminist Perspectives on the Ethic of Care (Dudley, 1994)

This bibliography is number 69 of the series “Wisconsin Bibliographies in Women’s Studies” published by the University of Wisconsin System Women’s Studies Librarian’s Office, Room 430 Memorial Library, 728 State Street, Madison, WI 53706.

The theories of Carol Gilligan (1977, 1982 and later) and Nel Noddings (1984 and later) are “central to understanding the origins of, and many directions within, feminist ethics today.” Their contributions are “especially important…for providing powerful feminist critiques of traditional ethical theories of rights and justice and for articulating the earliest descriptions of an ethic of care” (Cole and Coultrap-McQuin, 3).

An ethic of care and responsibility develops from an individual’s feeling of interconnectedness with others. It is contextual and arises from experience. It is characterized by nurturance and an emphasis on responsibilities to others. An ethic of justice, on the other hand, is an expression of autonomy. It is formulated in terms of universal, abstract principles and is characterized by rationality and an emphasis on individual rights. Some describe an ethic of caring as a “female” approach to morality and an ethic of rights and justice as a “male” approach.

Dialogue around the issue has included agreement, refinements, further study, criticism, revision, and rejection. Some questions remain: “Can a care orientation be distinguished from a justice orientation? To what extent are either of these moral ‘voices’ related to gender? Can the ethic of care based on relatedness and responsiveness to others be considered a truly feminist ethic?” (Larrabee, 4).

This bibliography begins chronologically with responses to Gilligan’s IN A DIFFERENT VOICE which was published in 1982. The listings represent a selection of books, articles, and essays that essentially concentrate on the ethic of care or on important aspects of it. For the most part, they express a theoretical point of view. The bibliography includes only a few works that discuss applications of the ethic of care in work situations such as health and medicine, moral education, and social work.

The issue of “mothering” has a life of its own, although it sometimes intersects the issue of an ethic of care. With the exception of works by Sara Ruddick, which inform discussions around the ethic of care, the bibliography excludes items about “mothering.”