New study of grassroots initiatives and the ‘care of others’

Omslag initiatievenIn the process of writing my dissertation, I developed an interest in what Michel Foucault called ‘the care of others’. In one of the chapters, I wrote about the manner in which such ‘care’ is mediated by technology. The topic stayed with me, and developed in two interrelated lines of research. One traces the notion of the ‘care of others’ to the global level, the other particularly to the local level.

In terms of the global level, I am working on a book about fair trade. I conceptualize fair trade as a case that helps me to think about the relations between Westerners, like myself, and people at the other side of the globe. Some of the posts on this blog touch upon this issue.

In terms of the local level, at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research, I have been working on a study of grassroots initiatives that people have taken in five Dutch cities or villages (municipalities). In public debates in Holland, the initiatives that people take receive considerable attention. Many such initiatives address such issues as communal production of energy or improving the ‘liveability’ of one’s neighborhood. The study that I have been involved in, with my colleagues Anita Boele and Pepijn van Houwelingen, targets initiatives that people take to ‘care for others’. We found 23 examples in total, ranging from ‘care co-operatives’ to voluntary transport services. Particularly considering recent plans to reshape the Dutch welfare state into a ‘participation society’, politicians are keen on civic projects that (partly) replace professional, state-funded care. The 2007 Social Support Act (Wmo) therefore makes local governments responsible for stimulating such initiatives. Our study questions how this policy works out in practice.

The study (written in Dutch) was published today. An English-language summary can be downloaded here.