COVID‐19, ethics of care and feminist crisis management

Branicki, Layla J. (2020). COVID‐19, ethics of care and feminist crisis management. Gender, Work & Organization, 27(5) pp. 872–883.



The COVID‐19 pandemic threatens both lives and livelihoods. To reduce the spread of the virus, governments have introduced crisis management interventions that include border closures, quarantines, strict social distancing, marshalling of essential workers and enforced homeworking. COVID‐19 measures are necessary to save the lives of some of the most vulnerable people within society, and yet in parallel they create a range of negative everyday effects for already marginalized people. Likely unintended consequences of the management of the COVID‐19 crisis include elevated risk for workers in low‐paid, precarious and care‐based employment, over‐representation of minority ethnic groups in case numbers and fatalities, and gendered barriers to work. Drawing upon feminist ethics of care, I theorize a radical alternative to the normative assumptions of rationalist crisis management. Rationalist approaches to crisis management are typified by utilitarian logics, masculine and militaristic language, and the belief that crises follow linear processes of signal detection, preparation/prevention, containment, recovery and learning. By privileging the quantifiable — resources and measurable outcomes — such approaches tend to omit considerations of pre‐existing structural disadvantage. This article contributes a new theorization of crisis management that is grounded in feminist ethics to provide a care‐based concern for all crisis affected people.

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