Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 11, No. 11, November 2015
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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The Care-Centered Economy - Part 4:
Rediscovering what has been taken for granted

Ina Praetorius

This article was originally published by
Heinrich Böll Foundation , 29 April 2015
under a Creative Commons License

Economics has become a kind of bellwether science from which many people obtain their view of what is «normal» and «right» about the value of relationships and activities. However, of all things, those activities for satisfying needs that are carried out in private households are studied either not at all or only marginally in economic science today, and are often distorted. What are the consequences of this omission? The theologian Ina Praetorius answers this question in her essay «The care-centered economy» by taking readers on an intellectual journey through the Western history of ideas and demonstrating how an inequitable dichotomous order is deeply rooted in the way today’s economy and society are organized.


The Care-Centered Economy - Foreword & introduction LINK
The Care-Centered Economy - Part 1: The dichotomization of humanity LINK
The Care-Centered Economy - Part 2: Separatisms, integrations and denial LINK
The Care-Centered Economy - Part 3: From post-dichotomous Durcheinander to a different paradigm LINK
The Care-Centered Economy - Part 4: Rediscovering what has been taken for granted LINK
The Care-Centered Economy - Taking the next steps & bibliography LINK

This entire essay is serialized in this journal, and is also available in PDF format: LINK.

It can be taken for granted that all people have needs at all times and that they are part of nature, which is generous, vulnerable, and limited, and that in relatedness154 they are at liberty to reasonably organize their communal life, on the basis of division of labor, and in a manner that is viable into the future. This is the one and only reason why economic activity is necessary as «a societal process designed to satisfy the human need to preserve and sustain life and the quality of life.»155

It is a matter of course that in the generous cosmos there is enough for everyone, provided nobody lives beyond the means of all people collectively. The rampant fear of being shortchanged and the corresponding pressure to place personal benefit at the center of everything are not products of nature, but of targeted induction. It can be taken for granted that trading certain products and services, but not others, on markets for money is reasonable. That is why it is also self-evident that there are, and there need to be, many other institutions and practices besides money, calculated exchanges, and markets by which human needs are satisfied and that are thus part of the economic system. It can be taken for granted that humans, as creatures who are free in relatedness, want to increase more than their personal benefits, in other words, that the image of the human as homo oeconomicus as traditionally conceived is inadequate. Humans who do not or do not want to conform to this image are not «destined to serve» and are by no means closer to nature than others. After all, although we all have the same natality, needs, and mortality, it is obvious that various human desires, talents, and forms of living exist for which there is no place in the seemingly general mechanism of the only purportedly free interplay of supply and demand. And of course there have for a long time been plenty of people who know what is taken for granted and who are willing or are even already engaged in helping bring about a needs-centered economic system that is not organized around principles of domination.

For this reason, there is no need for a new party or a new ministry in order to rediscover and explicitly rename what can be taken for granted. What is required already exists: people and groups who think and feel and are prepared to take the first steps, pressure arising from suffering, an inspired-inspiring Durch/Ein/Ander, precise analyses, a clear concept of the center around which the economic system, politics, and life practices would have to organize themselves in an old-new way, and intelligent, ever more intelligent networking. That is why I would like to begin an open-ended list of initiatives in this chapter. They are not ordered systematically; they point toward rediscovering what has been taken for granted, is already interrelated, or will soon forge relationships with each other.

4.1 Metaphorical work

Language is not limited to what is in the dictionary,but is constantly changing because it harbors infinite possibilities for recombination. "us, it is also open to intentional transformation: to shifting definitions, coining new words, making surprising links between words, sentences, the concrete and the abstract, the supposedly private and the political. Dictionaries are subject to constant revision, so that there is even the possibility that the «reconstruction of history» (1970, 140) that occurs through intentional restatement will one day become the standard and then open itself up to other new developments.

In other words, we are not forced to remain inside the narrow confines of dichotomous concepts and predefined discourses, but can actively do what Diotima, the Italian community of women philosophers, calls «metaphorical work.»156 Its journal Via Dogana features a section of its own for this purpose, called «L’Opera al nero,» which seeks

to transcend the boundaries of the conventional patterns of perception and valuation, including the new feminist ones. They (the authors I.P.) attempt to adopt a precise view in order to avoid using old standards and conventional thinking which would make the present … a repetition of what has already happened, of what was already known, of known behavior, and of stereotypes, and thus eternally the same. (Günter 246)

People working on a metaphorical or symbolic plane do not provide new «examples» for old categories, but shift the categories by carefully, patiently, and consciously creating relationships of a new kind between the particular and the general:

When attempting to comprehend changing reality, it becomes … a challenge to pick out and interpret seemingly unimportant events, in order to avoid overlooking what emerges by assuming again and again that it has the same meaning, and instead, despite the often unchanging words, genuinely saying something new, thus encountering new patterns of orientation and valuation … (Günter 249)

Concerning economic activity in particular, in other words, work which satisfies human needs, a broad area for new interpretations opens up: Rather than submitting to the usual custom of speaking about work only in the form of «numbers, statistics, organizational structures» (Günter 251), from the perspectives of winners and losers, of «creating jobs» and «losing jobs,» it is possible to begin to «bring language to places where it was previously lacking» (Günter 251): It is possible to speak about contentment and discontent, unease, satisfaction, and meaning in activities and fields of activity, regardless of whether they involve paid or unpaid work. It is possible to make «the need for quality and successful relationships» (Günter 251) a topic of discussion and measure every concrete piece of work according to whether and in what way it satisfies «the human need to preserve and sustain life and the quality of life.» Riane Eisler, the US care economist and author of the book with the telling title «The Real Wealth of Nations,» recommends systematically introducing the concept of caring in economic discourses here and now as a first step:

Just as words like freedom and democracy helped introduce new political models, we can all help introduce new economic models by changing the economic discourse. A first step in expanding the conversation about economics is simply to include the word caring. "is may seem like a small thing. But it’s an important step toward a new economics that gives visibility and value to what really makes us happy and healthy, and in the bargain leads to economic prosperity and ecological sustainability. Every one of us can talk about caring in our day-to-day conversations, at home, at work, … in schools and universities, and in public spaces …157

The authors of the «ABC of the good life» call not only for new designations of varied, constantly changing realities, but are already putting up for discussion a tried and tested «common vocabulary»:

The longer we discuss and shape the world with each other, the clearer it becomes which words we no longer need, which ones are relegated to the margins, and which ones move to the center. New words have emerged, too, for example «natality» or «shitology.» … In other words, through repeated new efforts we have already tidied up and rearranged the symbolic order step by step, so that it better fits the realities in which we find ourselves.158

Speaking is more than «mere talk» or «dry theory.» "is side of the well-established dualisms of theory and practice, science and everyday life, culture and nature, every instance of speaking encompasses the political opportunity to say something in a new way, which contributes to changing reality by touching it in playful seriousness with ever new words instead of repeating what has been predefined. It is not by chance that the «ABC of the good life» was published simultaneously in the stable form of a book and the fluid form of a blog.159

4.2 Social media

The demise of «quality journalism,» the shallowness of selfie culture, the dangers of constant surveillance, and the rampancy of falsified information and messages of hate are currently the object of many complaints. At the same time, there is no question that the Internet, in particular the blogosphere and social media, has opened up enormous opportunities to carry on long-overdue public debates without having to wait in front of locked doors for the editors-in-chief of the established «major» media to change their minds. Such ease of action facilitates the deconstruction of unbending dichotomies and supports the necessary transformation. Social media not only accelerate and multiply interactions, but can also improve their quality, provided the people involved are willing to view the new technical opportunities as a learning field and can muster the required patience:

For example, the often ridiculed large numbers of «friends» or «followers» in virtual networks can result in surprising transdisciplinary encounters, namely when someone whose virtual presence I had forgotten, in other words, for whose eyes a posting was not intended, responds with an unexpected comment, placing my position in a new, unfamiliar light. In my experience, such unexpected interventions, which often give a debate surprisingly constructive turns, occur less frequently outside the virtual space, not only because there, too, people with similar views usually meet in well-established discourse constellations, but because the visibility of the others makes it unlikely that people will «productively forget» about the concealed participants in the conversation. In this case, viewing social media as a learning field means seeking out friends who do not belong to your own «tribe»—and not taking their unexpected contributions as troublesome disturbances, but as challenges that support transformation, challenges to modify your own point of view beyond your own «filter bubble» or to refine your arguments.

At least within the still restricted circles with access to it, the Internet has significantly reduced hierarchies and subverted networks of insiders that support traditional dichotomous social structures, for example, old boys’ networks, women’s cliques, or hermetically closed circles debating particular theories. It enables processes of discussion across large geographical and cultural distances and contributes to a dialogue- based style of thinking characterized by a productive roughcast quality: While in the classical media and traditional academia thoughts are made available to the public only after a procedure taking months or even years, and in the form of products whose completeness and finality makes them di%cult to digest, the quasi-oral form of writing online enables people to circle around topics or hypotheses in a playful, fluid, cooperative way. Yet this new, communal way of interpreting reality is not self-evident, but must be acquired as a skill.

There are plenty of examples of the post-dichotomous innovative force of astutely used virtual communication. Without #Aufschrei (German for outcry or uproar) on Twitter, where young women put everyday sexual harassment as a facet of the still-powerful dichotomous gender order up for discussion, the broad debate on sexism in 2013, which raised the awareness of an entire generation for unsolved gender issues, would not have taken place in German-speaking countries. Without the intelligent combination of a constitution bearing features of direct democracy, social media, real events, and civic engagement, the Swiss people’s initiative for an unconditional basic income, which was submitted to the government on October 4, 2013 with more than 120,000 signatures and will soon be voted on, would never have come about. And on November 9, 2014, people representing the Internet-based «Center for Political Beauty»160—even the name is a remarkable post-dichotomous coinage—set out for Europe’s external borders. At the same time as celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, they created a symbolic relationship between the people who died on the border between the two German states and the migrants who had set out from the former colonies for the still arrogant supposed center of the world. While the «major» media ignored this symbolic action for the most part, information was continuously provided to the virtual public on social media, more directly than would have been possible in any of the classical media.

4.3 Peninsulas against the current

The means of communication provided by the Internet have also long become indispensable for most of the countless small and large socioeconomic experiments that Friederike Habermann calls «peninsulas against the current,» with reference to Theodor Adorno:

«There are no islands in a wrong life.» True, but there are peninsulas: Spaces— be they geographical (such as communes) or social (such as networks)—in which people try to lead a better life together. Spaces in which, to a certain extent, people create a different reality for themselves, trying out what the next steps might be. Spaces that permit people, by living what is taken for granted in them, to develop in different ways than possible outside such peninsulas.161

Calling initiatives such as guerilla gardening, insurance for public transportation passengers evading fares, give-away shops, dumpster diving, public bookshelves, Wikipedia, public soup kitchens, or medical assistance for refugees «peninsulas» means «queering» dichotomies such as right and wrong, capitalism and anti-capitalism, based on domination and free of domination, egoism, and altruism. (Habermann, 11-18)162 Seeking not to be an island, but rather a peninsula against the current means doing something new in the serene awareness that it will not become the perfect alternative or an idyllic world outside the constraints of the system, but certainly a contribution to «collective disidentification» (Habermann, 15) from apparently ubiquitous norms. Practically nothing is guaranteed in the process, not even the precocious knowledge «that alternative economic activity is necessarily doomed to fail» (Habermann, 17): Perhaps the peninsula will be swept away one day, perhaps not, perhaps it will transform itself into something else, perhaps it will become the fertile soil for individual processes of change that will only take on a sustainable communal form in the project after next, in which the dichotomy of feminine caring labor and the masculine habitus of leadership will have been overcome. In contrast to Friederike Habermann, I think that the peninsulas also include «individual action» (Habermann, 10)—for example, familial models of the division of labor that counter the norm, refusals to consume, ethically oriented consumption, and saving water and electricity in conventional homes. After all, the supposed contrast between the lack of power of the individual and the power of the collective is resolved in the Durch/Ein/Ander, since the «web of human affairs» cannot easily be planned for or predicted.163 Perhaps a young father’s decision to mount a solar panel on his standard single-family home will cause him to read a text on the caring economy and finally to start up an academy of economics that is free in relatedness? Or a theologian’s decision not to pursue a conventional academic career will free up space for her to profile the unconditional basic income as a post-patriarchal project?164

4.4 Ecological social policy

In fact, there are already numerous ideas and initiatives from established political and economic institutions that do not disempower dichotomous orders in their totality, but shift them or alleviate their negative effects: subsidies for children, welfare payments, unemployment benefits, and various other transfer payments oriented toward individual well-being; child care outside the home organized by businesses or municipalities; eco-, wealth, and financial transaction taxes; subsidies for ecological economic activity; quota rules; legalization and legal equality for gay and lesbian forms of living and transsexual identities; educational and curricular reforms; rules on the free movement of people; pension splitting; targeted tax exemptions; cuts in paid working hours, minimum wages, support for part-time work (for men, too); investments in the caregiving sector; flexible working hours; home o%ce arrangements, etc. Considered in isolation and from an already well-established standard of security provided by the welfare state, such measures may appear to be a patchwork or even a «dismantling of the welfare state» or merely contradictory efforts to combat symptoms of larger problems within the existing system. In fact, the state could do much more to support a post-dichotomous order if only the taboo of just, progressive tax could be broken. Nonetheless, in their totality, the measures already in place do point in the right direction of easing conditions that have become rigid and can be used accordingly and combined wisely with individual art de vivre.

The idea of fundamentally decoupling wages and work in the form of an unconditional basic income165 is significantly more radical than such fragmented ventures. Regardless of how they participate in the «societal process designed to satisfy the human need to preserve and sustain life and the quality of life,»166 women, men, and others would be liberated not only from fundamental anxiety about their own survival and from the stereotypical, often desperate search for «employment»—as devoid of meaning as it may be. They would also, and explicitly, be encouraged to experiment with forms of living outside the generalized model of securing their livelihoods by working for wages, for example by still untested trans-forms of existence between care, art, and ecology,167 by pleasurable-ascetic forms of non-consumption and self-suffciency, by means of livelihoods as inventors, cross-generational care cooperatives and other, not yet discernible peninsulas that could be easier to sustain and connect in networks of post-dichotomous innovation in a society with an unconditional basic income. The argument that can legitimize practically anything today, namely that «jobs» must be «created» at (practically) any cost, would become just as obsolete as the excuse that people would have to do meaningless work simply to secure their livelihoods. A self-determined re-orientation of individuals toward «satisfy[ ing] the human need to preserve and sustain life and the quality of life» would become possible again. Understood in the context of the post-dichotomous paradigm shift—and only in this context168—the introduction of an unconditional basic income would be an important «part of the solution»:169 a presumably highly effective state measure to support the development of a liberal, just, and sustainable society.

4.5 Departure from the secondary contradiction

The majority of activists promoting a basic income, however, are still mistakenly convinced that it could be conceived of and introduced without the paradigm shift in the economic system still to be accomplished. For this reason, the mainstream debate usually deals with the future of the care sector and the problem of its centuries-old naturalization briefly and succinctly in the context of the question how «unpleasant work» and its lack of «recognition»170 should be handled. The usual response is that in a society with a basic income, there would be: three possibilities for the unpopular tasks. One: people—each and every one—would do them themselves. We would coordinate with our neighbors for work in public spaces. Two: we leave unpleasant tasks to machines and robots, since some of this could be rationalized. three: we would enhance the value of these … unattractive tasks. In order to guarantee that they continue to be done, such work would have to generally be paid better and offer better conditions than today.171

The questions to be posed in response are obvious: Which activities precisely are «unpleasant,» and why? To what extent are they part of the care sector? How should the many «unpopular» tasks in private homes be dealt with; for one thing, they often involve people, for example, infants or the frail elderly, who cannot «do them themselves, » and for another, they cannot be «paid better» because they are usually not paid at all? Why did the «enhancement of the value» of care work, which is postulated here as an automatic form of self-regulation, not take place long ago in the context of the shortage of nursing staff, which has existed for years? Could it be that care will not be valued more highly and paid better in a society with a basic income, but will continue to be performed without pay or underpaid by those conditioned to do it, because it follows a logic of necessity172 and can therefore not be integrated in the familiar «free» play of supply and demand or the customary methods of labor disputes? How should those who for many generations have been defined as being part of nature and thus silenced suddenly learn how to speak and also to eloquently defend their interests?173 What does the innocent expectation that the people who are regarded as part of nature and who do the groundwork for the supposedly free play of market forces would speak up for themselves and then be integrated by means of regulating wages mean for nature, which is actually extra-human and unable to articulate anything in the traditional sense, and thus also for the ecological sustainability of the project of an unconditional basic income?

Not surprisingly, the obviously uncritical view of the mainstream unconditional basic income discussion, which tends to be dominated by white men, accepts the view, especially well-established on the Left, that gender issues—and thus, as has become evident, logically also the ecological question—are a «secondary contradiction. » Secondary contradictions, it is assumed, disappear by themselves as soon as the societal conditions have changed when the primary or basic contradiction, for example that of capital and labor, has been resolved. The differentiation of primary and secondary contradictions, in turn, follows the dichotomous order according to which the oikos as the pre-economic and «pre-political form of community»174 and extra-human nature as a storehouse of materials have no dynamics or will of their own—as Aristotle, too, claimed «a slave … will obviously require only so much virtue as will prevent him from failing in his duty through cowardice and intemperance.»175

With the abolition of the dichotomous order as such, this hierarchization of first- and second-order liberation movements becomes superfluous; it has long been dis- proven by feminists, along with many other well-established patterns of behavior such as contempt for women’s thinking, often disguised as gallantry,176 which still manifests itself today in the widespread custom (not only) of men to ignore feminist analyses. Why? Because by definition, materia has no voice and can at best function as an echo, but cannot say anything new?177 Or because the fear of Durch/Ein/Ander and losing privileges is greater than the desire for change?

4.6 Dirty work: searching for traces

There are other ways to prepare for a society with a basic income which are better thought through than the strategy of avoidance in the tradition of hierarchizing supposed primary and secondary contradictions. One of them is focusing systematically and with curiosity on the «unpopular» activities, and thus on the mostly unexplored178 «lowly» areas of the symbolic and social order: What is sometimes called «dirty work» often touches on what is called «excrement,» «stool,» «feces,» or «shit.» Since all people are part of nature, it is an unalterable fact, despite all the yearning for cleansing spiritualization, that we must not only be supplied unceasingly with air, water, and food, but that we also produce waste. Filth in all its forms does not disappear by itself, but must be collected and cleared away; managed, disposed of, or transformed, for example, into fertilizer or biogas, in sanitary installations. Instead of ostensibly ridding oneself of this supposedly embarrassing179 side of all life and the corresponding work by pushing it away into spheres of dependency, vocations with low recognition and poor pay, into euphemisms and extra-economic discourses, they could systematically be placed at the center of attention in the sense of deconstructing the dichotomous order. That is why the «ABC of the good life» includes an article devoted to the topic of «shit»:

Making shit a taboo … stands in the way of recognizing shit as the foundation of life. The fact that shit, as fertilizer, causes new food to emerge, is … evidence of the fact that we are designed to cooperate with all life forms. In so doing, people recognize themselves as beings integrated into the cycle of life, with needs, dependent on others, physical, and mortal. … Explicitly naming shit and how we deal with it, and making it visible, means focusing thinking and acting on essential conducts and spheres of life that receive little attention in the prevailing order, such as households, agriculture, care, and cleaning. It means grappling systematically with the meaning of shit and of the activities involved with it—as well as with the significance of the people who carry out these activities. In order to strengthen this process, we need … a theory, an economics, and an ethics of shit. Some authors among us have already begun with this «shitology.180

Inasmuch as «economic activity based on division of labour is a societal process designed to satisfy the human need to preserve and sustain life and the quality of life,»181 activities that deal with processing or disposing of shit and other materials sometimes considered unpleasant or disgusting—urine, corpses, earth, dung, trash …—are not only a necessary, but a central part of the economic system. When garbage collection or cleaning services do not happen, when farmers or women go on strike, as they did on June 14, 1991 in Switzerland, this becomes immediately obvious. That is why the economic system, as soon as it organizes itself once again around its self-defi ned center, must explicitly include dirty work and shitty jobs in its scope, regardless of who performs them when and where and under what conditions, and whether they are included in the flow of money or not. Whether the experimental term «shitology» will prevail is an open question; the authors of the «ABC» propose it as a conceptual bracket for the now necessary multi-dimensional research on the areas of work with dirt and dirty work, which are for the time being largely isolated from one another. It appears plausible to me that at this point, where the task is to reflect upon the dependency of all on the disposal and processing of «disgusting» materials, it is necessary to provoke discussion and place a clear focus on this matter for at least a certain period of time.

4.7 The thinking of natality

The Platonic Socrates explicitly considered born life (including all joy and all shit) a burdensome antecedent of actual spiritual being, which only begins at death:

The body presents us with innumerable distractions, because of the necessity of looking after it … with emotions of love, desire, and fear, with all kinds of phantasy and nonsense … it seems, we shall have our heart’s desire, that of which we claim to be lovers, even wisdom—when we die … … for then, but not till then, the soul will be independent, free from the body.182

In light of this original conviction of Western thought, whose comprehensive reception for centuries made Christian theology a «religion of the hereafter,» it is not surprising that for a long time, people were called «mortals,» as though this were a matter of course. Today, the obvious fact that people are also natal is being rediscovered after being repressed intellectually almost entirely. Beside the stereotypical dualistic conception that being born means being locked into the body as if into a prison of the soul, human existence now appears surprising, unique, full of initiative, free in relatedness:

The first step was taken in 1951 by Hannah Arendt. On the last pages of her monumental work «The Origins of Totalitarianism,» she refers to the fact that humans are not, as some existentialists believed, tossed into the world by chance,183 but are born as newcomers into an ordered fabric of generations and relationships. Nothing else can provide hope after the Holocaust :

We know that the iron band of total terror leaves no space for such private life and that the self-coercion of totalitarian logic destroys man’s capacity for experience and thought just as certainly as his capacity for action. Initium ergo ut esset, creatus est homo, ante quem nullus fuit «that a beginning be made man was created» said Augustine. "is beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.184

In her second major work, «The Human Condition,» Arendt adds to this idea and develops it into a post-dichotomous theory of freedom and action:185

Because they are initium, newcomers and beginners by virtue of birth, men take initiative, are prompted into action. … The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability, which for all practical, everyday purposes amounts to certainty; the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle. … "is character of startling unexpectedness is inherent in … the fact of birth of the human condition of natality … And this again is possible only because each man is unique, so that with each birth something uniquely new comes into the world.186

Thinkers such as Artur Boelderl, Barbara Bronnen, Adriana Cavarero, Andrea Günter, Luce Irigaray, Ludger Lütkehaus, Luisa Muraro, Hans Saner, Christina Schües, and Hanna Strack have since linked up to Arendt’s thoughts on natality in different ways.187 For example, Hans Saner developed the connection that already existed in Arendt’s work in nascent form, namely between memento nasci and new categories of the human—beginning, curiosity, play, experimentation, hope, having time, uniqueness, imagination—that needed to be considered.188 And he succinctly formulated an obvious point that had long been ignored: «Man is mortal from the beginning and natal until death.»189 Christina Schües painstakingly traced the history of how birth was blocked out in Western thinking.190 Adriana Cavarero, Andrea Günter, Luce Irigaray, and Luisa Muraro made connections to feminist discourses: they showed that suppressing the real beginning and its significance for what was formerly known as «this mortal world» is closely tied to the original, symbolic «matricide»—the equation of the motherly with voiceless materia, the removal of Xanthippe from the circle of philosophers. And they recognized the link between the silence about the real beginning and the fixation on a hereafter—constituted in many ways—that distracts attention from a here and now filled with meaning.

In her work, she focuses on the site that the gaze of men has long sought to avoid for fear of staring death in the face as the yardstick of human existence. "is anxiety is what gives rise to the symbolic event that constitutes the original act of matricide. It is also the basis of the obsessive desire to endure, to survive, which leads men to entrust eternal objects of thought with the task of «saving» them from the selfsame death they chose as the locus of meaning when they decided, not by chance, to call themselves mortals [subject to death, morte].191

Perceiving oneself as natal—or in the monastic tradition: as newly born every day— opens up surprising points of access to your own ability to act outside predetermined paths, in particular by no longer experiencing freedom and dependency as irreconcilable, but as belonging together: People who live their own natality need no morality fixed without reference to the world for post-dichotomous transformation, no party doctrine, and equality understood only pragmatically as an instrument for reducing unjustified privileges. They need relationships with other people who know how to orient themselves as distinct individuals beyond ready-made identities in freedom based on relatedness and how to organize themselves anew time and again. In light of this freedom to weave one’s own life «like a thread into a fabric that you did not create yourself,»192 the hereafter, constituted in many ways—from hell to Wall Street, from Armageddon to paradise, from political ideology to religious dogma—actually becomes much less attractive in the positive and negative senses.

4.8 The other in between: post-dichotomous reconstruction of the religious

The fact that the Christian tradition places a divine birth—and «the cross and the resurrection» only as a consequence of this—at its center, is just one of many indications of its openness to new post-patriarchal interpretations. Not by chance was it a non-believing Jewish woman who succinctly formulated this specific characteristic of connectability:

It is, in other words, the birth of new men and the beginning, the action they are capable of by virtue of being born. Only the full experience of this capacity can bestow upon human affairs faith and hope, those two essential characteristics of human existence which Greek antiquity ignored altogether … It is this faith in and hope for the world that found perhaps its most glorious and most succinct expression in the few words with which the Gospels announced their «glad tidings»: «A child has been born unto us.»193

Not only Christian feminist theologians have begun to discover in recent decades sustainable aspects of their religion under thick layers of patriarchal dogma. It is nothing new that boundary-crossing processes of understanding leading to cooperative development of such elements of tradition are taking place, within the only apparently solely authoritative institutional and curricular guidelines. In the «ABC of the good life» these conversations are described as follows:

[Such] conversations are experimental dialogues that create post-patriarchal connotations derived from people’s questions about meaning and structuring. They are not about demarcating closed doctrinal systems, but about developing new ideas and questioning traditions concerning their suitability for everyday life, their potential for liberation, and their transformability: Which fragments of the o%cial dogmatics prove useful in concrete situations? How can I breathe new life into the wisdom of my ancestors without excluding my neighbors? Which words and gestures fit with our needs and experiences? Should we invent new ones?194

It is true that the Occident still occasionally refers to itself as «the Christian West.» However, the fact that the future of the answer to questions about meaning cannot be formulated in the context of just a single tradition has long been clear to the avantgarde coming together in the «interreligious think tank» in Switzerland. In an interreligious manifesto titled «Women’s freedom and religion are compatible,» these researchers with various backgrounds have put into words why and how they want to retain a way of life characterized by religion:

We consider religiosity to be a certain attitude to the world and to human existence. "is attitude consists above all in recognizing an inaccessible horizon that cannot be appropriated by any person or any grouping. In the monotheistic traditions, this comprehensive presence is usually called «God.» In non-monotheistic worldviews, terms such as the «original source of life,» the «way,» «emptiness,» etc. are used. Because they are aware of the inaccessibility of the final truth, all people who are religious in this sense share respect for others who draw meaning and life energy from other traditions.195

Accessing the religious traditions of the world in a post-patriarchal way is a self-evident contribution to a good form of global communal life, for in post-secular times, human reason no longer cuts itself off «from important resources of meaning.»196 The apparently firmly established boundaries between belief and knowledge, reason and emotion, myth and logos, publicness and «private matters» are dissipating in the Durch/Ein/Ander. It is time for conversations of this kind between religious people of all traditions and those who «in another way attain to the effects for which prayer is recommended [and] will not be in need of it» in a period in which the question of meaning is once again emerging in the public sphere.

As to the Christian tradition, it could prove interesting that the German prefix Kar- is related to the English word care:197 "is prefix, to be found in the German terms Karwoche (Holy Week) and Karfreitag (Good Friday), the most important Protestant holiday, is derived from the Old High German Kara, which once meant «sorrow» or «grief» and corresponds to the Gothic term chara, which in turn is related to the English word care with its various meanings. What would it feel like to celebrate the Karwoche as a week of caring? In other words, placing not grief for the crucified savior, but enthusiasm for his care-centered way of life at the center? – At Easter, the celebration of resurrection, we could then celebrate the uprising as involving a concept of being based on everlasting, loving Durch/Ein/Ander.

4.9 Sumak kawsay and gross national happiness

The Andean concept of sumak kawsay has been anchored in the constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia since 2008 and 2009, respectively. Like many other thinkers (partially) socialized in the European tradition, the German–Brazilian liberation theologian Paulo Suess translates it as buen vivir: good living/living well. However, he immediately adds that sumak kawsay should by no means be casually considered the same as the Occidental concept of the good life, which is usually tied back to the Aristotelian eudaimonia and anchored firmly in dichotomous metaphysics. Rather, the contemporary reference to sumak kawsay is an explicit «breakaway from a development model based on acceleration, accumulation, economic growth, exports, and exploitation of nature and human beings,» based on Andean cosmology and anthropology and not directly compatible with Western thinking. What is meant is that «good living,» on the basis of cultural diversity and social justice, is embedded in a complex and non-linear concept of recognition, valuation, and dialogue in which man and nature are equal partners.198 The national policy objective of «gross national happiness,»199 anchored in Art. 9 of Bhutan’s 2008 constitution, also contests the arrogated monopoly of Western traditions to define what is good. "is concept, too, distances itself from development models unilaterally oriented toward economic e%ciency and the Western modes of argument it implicitly includes. Following the Buddhist tradition combines material prosperity with «spiritual well-being in harmonious serenity»200 and defines five core areas in which happiness is primarily realized: human development, balanced development, protection of the environment, preservation of culture and traditions, and good governance.

While such well-advanced initiatives often perplex Western academia and are considered «radical breaks in the system,»201 the fact that other traditions are rediscovered in light of the collapse of Western dominance and established as authoritative by, for example, being included in constitutions, is actually nothing but logical. The extent to which such alternatives are sustainable cannot be determined in general, but only on a case-by-case basis, and surely not from behind a European desk.

4.10 From human dignity to the dignity of living beings

An example of the fact that diversions from the apparently preordained path of Western/ secular ethics and legal theory are also possible in the middle of Europe is Swiss voters deciding in a referendum on May 17, 1992 to include the term «dignity of living beings» in their constitution:202

The Confederation shall legislate on the use of reproductive and genetic materials from animals, plants and other organisms. In doing so, it shall take account of the dignity of living beings as well as the safety of human beings, animals and the environment, and shall protect the genetic diversity of animal and plant species.203

The concept of the creature or «living being»204 is, definitely comparable to sumak kawsay, a religious element foreign to the secular language of the law. It is true that it derives from the Christian tradition and is thus less distant from the Occidental mainstream than the cosmology of the Andean peoples. Nonetheless, anchoring the «dignity of living beings» in the constitution has, for the time being, elicited considerable perplexity, even defensiveness, in the relevant «normal sciences» (Kuhn 1973, passim). Confusion is great precisely because the concept of dignity is at the center of modern ethics and legal theory: how should human beings, an end in themselves, always previously defined in differentiation to non-human nature and exclusively the domain of «God’s image,» and the human being as the «rational being,» be transferred to non-human nature?

To this day, the fundamental rights of all human beings refer to the pivotal element of «human dignity,» as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 in the «Universal Declaration of Human Rights,» which has by now been ratified by almost all members. Article 1 states:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.205

However, the term «brotherhood» seems similarly out of place in the 21st century as the notion—not explicitly abandoned to this day—of tying dignity to the «as it were»206 sanctified gift of reason—and according to Kant, it is not certain that women,207 nonwhites, or people with a mental disability have this gift. The view still maintained today by the Roman Catholic church, namely that despite «the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity»208 the church also continues to uphold the precept «that dignity and vocation that result from the specific diversity and personal originality of man and woman,»209 seems even more disconcerting than such implicit biases. Internal contradictions of this kind in the concept of human dignity reveal that it is by no means as timeless—and thus sacrosanct—as the certainly comprehensible and, to a limited extent, reasonable pathos often surrounding it would have us believe.

The concept of dignity, as central as it may be for the tradition of human rights and as important as it will remain in the future, has a history, as does every word, and is constantly undergoing transformation: In light of the challenge of again conceiving what is human as part of nature, the task is to develop a concept of dignity that is no longer based on the division into «human culture» and «brute matter,»210 which has become obsolete, and thus protects more than the interests of some people vis-à-vis a kind of nature which is conceived of as external to these people. The confusion prompted by the concept of the «dignity of living beings,» which has been elevated to constitutional status, holds transformative potential in this sense, not least because an article of the constitution approved by referendum cannot be dismissed as an empty formula or legal gimmickry. In the debate about this term, which is far from over and which concerns the question how seven billion—and soon more—human bearers of dignity will be able to protect themselves and their future together with living nature of which they are part, thinking about natality may prove helpful, where possible combined with the approach of «enlivenment.»211

4.11 Queer ecology

It is only logical that gender differences are also de-dualizing themselves in the post-patriarchal Durch/Ein/Ander. Why should, of all things, the repressive duality placed at the center of the dichotomous order resist deconstruction? It is no coincidence that the Vatican fears queer theory and practice as «genderism» (which has become more and more widely known since the publication of Judith Butler’s «Gender Trouble»):212 Queering the supposedly natural, hierarchically constituted binary gender order through the certainty that more than just two genders exist, as do many more pleasurable forms of living together than the allegedly only natural one, namely heterosexual monogamy, tackles the center of the dichotomous order and upsets its (latent) central dogma.

In the form of «queer ecology,»213 queering has entered debates about the relationship between human beings and nature and about sustainable economic activity. Queer ecology transcends dualisms such as those between woman and man, inside and outside,214 heterosexuality and homosexuality, subject and object, science and art, nature and culture, and theory and practice as an important voice in the concert of experimental-post-dichotomous movements. Besides heteronormativity, it focuses in particular on the rich diversity of sexual variants of the more-than-human nature-culture. As Sacha Kagan describes it :

Indeed, sexuality in nature, whether reproductive or non-reproductive, is much more complex, polymorphic and changing than was conceived only a few decades ago, with the traditional view of a functional evolution of sexuality.215

Timothy Morton argues that

biodiversity and gender diversity are deeply intertwined …. Plants and animals are hermaphroditic before they are bisexual and are bisexual before they are heterosexual. Males and females of most plants and half the animals can become hermaphrodites either together or in turn, and hermaphrodites can become male or female; many switch gender constantly.216

Queer ecology also shakes up traditional conceptualizations such as «environment» or «protection of nature» and the concepts of human action they involve: if nature is perceived as both outside and inside, then the notion that ecological action is about controlling or protecting areas «around us» becomes obsolete. The idea that people could «plan» or «be in command of» natural developments from a higher-ranking position disintegrates. We need to seek out forms and concepts for a synergy of interconnected and constantly changing cooperating-conflicting entities, all of which are nature-culture and influence and regulate each other. The image of walking through a landscape could approximate this post-dichotomous understanding of ecological co-action and gives a healthy knock to the classical concept of researchers sitting motionless at their desks:

Walking is not only an everyday practice characterizing the human being, but also a … form of action research. It allows embodied learning. Walking-based practices put learned things in contexts, locally and ecologically, embedded in a real geography … Thanks to the slower rhythm, the walker heightens his or her attention. Walking across places involves moving, exchanging, comparing. Walking is transversal because the transversal is that which cuts across, walks across, different levels of reality.217

4.12 Care revolution

On March 15, 2014, occupational scientist Gabriele Winker opened the first Action Conference Care Revolution with the question of what a «care revolution» might entail:

We use this term to mean political action that takes a radically different starting point for political argumentation. We argue … for a type of action that thinks about politics and economics not from the perspective of growth rates and securing and maximizing profits, but from the perspective of human needs, that is, most importantly, caring and being cared for. … We must … make clear that an economic, a societal system must be able to satisfy basic needs of all people in their diversity without discriminating against people from other regions of the world.218

It is true that Gabriele Winker did not explicitly talk about a paradigm shift. The initial intention of the action conference was to bring together people and groupings from various contexts of care—private households, caregiving, raising children, self-care, cleaning services, etc.—to exchange experiences and to motivate them to join forces and take political action, and this took priority over the necessary work on a post- dichotomous theory. Still, this topic was raised in the form of an appeal to network the emerging care movement with other social movements:

We can … develop our programmatic ideas further, based on our various desires and ideas. It is important … that we introduce our thoughts about a new economic system oriented toward care into other social movements as well, I am thinking here of the protests about crises or the ecological movement critical of growth. Other social movements can only benefit from this, and the care movement can, at the same time, become broader and clearer, louder and more visible.219

The organizers of the action conference in Berlin had anticipated about 150 attendees. Yet five hundred came. People with disabilities thought about the «right to good assistance » together with their carers. Mothers and fathers exposed the potential of the propagandistic term «work-life balance» to obscure things. Researchers from various disciplines exchanged ideas with autonomously organized «caring communities.» A Polish carer who migrated to Switzerland was applauded as a pioneer because she had won a lawsuit against her employer who had not paid her appropriately for providing 24-hour home care for the elderly. Participants reported about the consequences of the policy of privatization in the German health-care system, the precarious situation in southern European hospitals created by the rigid austerity policy in the course of the euro crisis—and about successful resistance against it. And there were many more surprising encounters.

It is an open question whether the «Network Care Revolution,» which has since been founded, will become the gathering place for a sufficient number of people who have understood that there is a causal link between the struggle of care migrants for fair pay and experiments with small-scale organic agriculture, post-patriarchal work on language that does justice to reality, the right of transsexuals to societal recognition, and many other things. "is transformative approach is still too young. It seems plausible to me that because ownership of the term «care» has not yet been claimed by an academic discipline or a political party, precisely because it is still undergoing transdisciplinary development, and because as an English term, it can potentially be understood around the world, this implies that it has the potential to topple the dichotomous paradigm. I hope that the «Care Revolution» conference will go down in the history of mankind as the beginning of a major movement and as a decisive element of the post-dichotomous paradigm shift.


The list with which I provisionally conclude my deliberations on a needs-centered economic system based on what has been taken for granted is natal: a personal collection of beginnings characterized by unmistakable relationships and instances of relatedness, beginnings that are different in nature and, for the time being, mostly unconnected. Even in our Internet age, nobody can keep track of everything going on in the whole wide world. That is why the list is open-ended and awaits links and additions, just as the world is always awaiting ever new beginnings crossing and queering each other, approaching each other, joining up in networks and new synergies, and continuing to develop.

Concerning my Western tradition, I am convinced that the decision of Platonic Socrates to send Xanthippe and the child home into a mute existence can be reversed. We can decide anew what we want to regard as real: an invisible, bodiless hereafter— heaven, hell, Wall Street—or an irreplaceable existence in the here and now, which we as natal, needy-free, mortal beings shape in life-alarming and ever new ways— both durch einander (through one another in the social sense) and durch ein Ander (through an other in the transcendental sense). Perhaps we have already made that decision.


161 Friederike Habermann 2009, 9 (emphasis I. P.). The page numbers in parentheses in chapter 4.3 refer to this work.
162 See also 4.10.
163 Hannah Arendt 1958, 204 and passim.
164 Ina Praetorius 2014b.
165 See Christian Müller et al. 2012 , Ronald Blaschke et al. (eds.) 2013.
166 Peter Ulrich 2008, 11. See note 2.
167 See, e. g., Sacha Kagan 2012.
168 Ina Praetorius 2014.
169 See Ronald Blaschke et al. (eds.) 2013.
170 Christian Müller et al. 2012, 77f.
171 Ibid. 78f.
172 Antje Schrupp 2013; See also the article on «Notwendigkeit» («Necessity») in Ursula Knecht et al. 2012, 103f.
173 See on this the widely discussed question of post-colonialism formulated first by Gayatri Spivak: «Can the subaltern speak?» (Gayatri Spivak 2007).
174 Helmut Thielicke 1979.
175 Aristotle 2000, 52.
176 Heidemarie Bennent 1985.
177 Ina Praetorius 2009.
178 It is positive to note that people have recently begun to research dirty work, see for example Lena Schürmann 2013. Regarding earlier artistic exploration, see «The Maintenance Art Manifesto» (1969) by Mierle Laderman Ukeles.
179 See chapter 1.2 of this essay, in particular note 28.
180 Ursula Knecht et al. 2012, 115f.
181 See note 2.
182 Plato 1955, 50-51 (emphases I. P.). See note 25.
183 Hannah Arendt 1998, 183. Arendt added this passage when translating The Human Condition into German.
184 Hannah Arendt 1951, 474, 479.
185 Hannah Arendt 1998, 177-178.
186 Ibid. 177f.
187 See Ina Praetorius 2011a and 2011b for the references.
188 Hans Saner 1987.
189 Ibid. 31.
190 Christina Schües 2008.
191 Adriana Cavarero 1995, 7. See also Luce Irigaray 1985.
192 Hannah Arendt 1998, 183. Arendt added this passage when translating The Human Condition into German.
193 Hannah Arendt 1998, 178.
194 Ursula Knecht et al. 2012, 85.
195 Interreligiöser Think Tank 2011, 2. See on this also Ina Praetorius 2014a, 65-73.
196 Habermas 2003, 109.
197 Duden [dictionary] 1963, article on Karfreitag (Good Friday).
198 Paulo Suess 2012, 27f.
199 See Michael Lysander Fremuth et al. (eds.) 2010.
200 Ibid. 12.
201 Anna Findl-Ludescher et al. (eds.) 2012, 36 and passim.
202 See on this Ina Praetorius 2008.
203 Article 120 Section 2 of the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Federation of April 18, 1999.
204 Creature, from the Latin creare/to create, creatura/what has been created. The wording in the German version of the Swiss Constitution is Kreatur for «living beings.»
205 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Basic Law passed on May 23, 1949, for the three Western zones and in force for all of Germany since October 3, 1990, begins with an appeal to inalienable human dignity: «Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.» (Article 1 Section 1 Basic Law)
206 «This estimation (of the rational human being, I.P.) therefore shows that the worth of such a disposition is dignity, and places it infinitely above all price, with which it cannot for a moment be brought into comparison or competition without as it were violating its sanctity.»(Immanuel Kant 2005, 93).
207 «I hardly believe that the fair sex is capable of principles …» (See note 53.)
208 Apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium 2013, 83. See note 38.
209 Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem 1988, 10. See note 37.
210 Andreas Weber 2013, 26. See note 8.
211 See on this ibid. and Ina Praetorius 2008.
212 Judith Butler 1991.
213 Sacha Kagan 2012, 22f., Timothy Morton 2010.
214 Timothy Morton 2010, 274.
215 Sacha Kagan 2012, 25.
216 Timothy Morton 2010, 276.
217 Sacha Kagan 2012, 37.
218 Gabriele Winker 2014, 68.
219 Ibid. 70.



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Ina Praetorius, Dr. theol., is a graduate in German literature and a Protestant theologian. She was a research fellow at the Institute for Social Ethics at the University of Zurich from 1983 to 1987. She obtained her doctorate in Heidelberg in 1992; her dissertation was entitled «Anthropology and the image of women in German-language theology.» A freelance writer and speaker, she has been living in Wattwil, Switzerland, with her family since 1987. Website: Ina Praetorius.

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