Philosophy Compass, Volume 17, Issue 4, April 2022.
In a moment where needs for care are acute and their provision precarious, feminist care ethics has gained new relevance as a framework for understanding and responding to necessary interdependence. This article reviews and evaluates two long-standing critiques of care ethics in light of this recent research. First, I assess what I call the pluralist feminist critique, or the dispute over the ability of care ethics to address the needs and histories of a range of marginalized subjects. I identify two forms of this critique: the first disputes the biased starting points shaping the development of the theory, and the second concerns the weaponization of care in support of domination. Although these critiques are well-established, I draw attention to recent responses that move care theory in generative directions. I argue that the pluralist feminist critique demands both self-critical transformation in dialog with other feminist schools of thought and a robust account of care ethics' normative authority. I then take up critiques those levied by mainstream ethicists concerned with care theory's adequacy as an ethical approach. I show that recent work on normative authority, conceptual uniqueness, and the grounding of responsibility must be engaged before care theory can be dismissed as “under-theorized.” In articulating these two sets of critiques and evaluating recent rebuttals to them, I argue for a pluralist feminist theory of care within which strands informed by varying philosophical schools and methods can coexist.