Careful Economics: Integrating Caring Activities and Economic Science.

Author:Purkayastha, Dipankar
Position:Book Review

Careful Economics: Integrating Caring Activities and Economic Science, by Maren A. Jochimsen. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 2003. ISBN 1402074670, $71.00. 136 pages.

In Careful Economics, Maren A. Jochimsen examines a very important but neglected area in economics: the economics of care and caring services. These services include, among other things, childcare, care for the sick, care for the disabled, and care for the elderly. Caring service is unlike any other service in economic theory because neither the recipients nor the providers of caring services fit neatly into the neoclassical ideal types of consumption, production, and exchange undertaken by rational, self-regarding, utility-maximizing and profit-maximizing agents. The recipients of caring services may not have the maturity or the capability to make correct decisions, and many providers are probably motivated by nonmonetary rewards implicit in caring services. This book is relevant not only because it addresses a weakness in traditional individualist methodology in economics but it is also timely because caring services will certainly assume more importance in the future. As baby boomers age, as medical sciences increase our life expectancy, and as two-earner and single parent families become increasingly common, elderly care, patient care, and childcare will be more significant issues in the future. The book explores these important and timely issues. Unfortunately, however, the book fails to deliver either practical guidelines or a falsifiable theory in the economics of care.

The essence of Jochimsen's study is reflected in the book's first sentence: "To care is to relate." Indeed, the neoclassical literature, notwithstanding its occasional emphasis on altruism, does not quite address how individuals actually relate to one another or whether these relations are independent of optimizing behavior of rational economic agents. Jochimsen argues that the act of caring, at least in part, may be a "contested commodity" (as conceptualized by Margaret Radin) and it may be indicative of a constitutive act of the caregiver's sense of responsibility and self-identity. This tension between methodological individualism and Jochimsen's emphasis on human relations--which some may call "methodological relationalism"--is reminiscent of the debate between Isaac Newton and Gotfried Leibniz in the philosophy of physics. Leibniz argued that spatial properties were relational and not absolute...

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