Categories: English

By Ina Praetorius

The Holy Week – the week before Easter – is called „Karwoche“ in German. The prefix „Kar-„ is used only within this context. It derives from the Old German word „Kara“ which means „sadness“, „worry“, „concern“. Indeed, traditional Christians celebrate the Holy Week as a time of sadness, reading the biblical passion narratives, mourning the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, their savior.

Etymologically, „Kara“ is related to the English notion “Care”. Care means: worry, concern – in the sense of caring for people and their needs, for the wellbeing of all (including myself), for the environment and for the world we live in.

In the past four decades “Care” has been the center of a vivid feminist debate about possible alternatives to established mindsets in anthropology, ethics and economics. The “Economy of Care” or “Care-centered Economy” has become a theoretically and practically well-founded concept challenging the predominant market economy with its claim that economics is a theory of money and markets. In fact, economists normally define their subject as “a theory of the fulfilling of human needs” (oiko-nomia from ancient Greek oikos/house, household and nomos/rule, doctrine), yet routinely exclude all the predominantly female unpaid care-work from their considerations. This is a contradiction that has to be resolved, for the sake of our human future as humans on this earth.

In Switzerland, for example, according to the official national statistics 8.7 billion hours of unpaid work were performed in 2013 the bulk of which was care-work: raising, educating, supporting children, caring for the elderly, for the ill, for neighbors, and also: washing, cooking, shopping, cleaning, tidying up… For this kind of work 14 percent more time was spent than for paid work. Women contributed 62 percent of the unpaid care work while men contributed 62 percent of the paid work. According to these calculations, women living in Switzerland would have earned 241 billion francs for the entire amount of work they did, men 159 billion. In other countries the situation is not much different .

Without care there are no people. Without people there are no needs to be fulfilled, thus: there is no economy. So, shouldn’t we finally count and include the economic core business into economics, the media and public awareness? Shouldn’t we start thinking economy, our caring-for-each-other differently? For the sake of our and the world’s wellbeing?

It is a good thing that fewer and fewer people in the so-called “Christian West” know what their religion, for example the “Karwoche” is all about. For this ignorance opens up spaces of reinterpretation. In this sense the newly founded association WiC (Wirtschaft ist Care/Economy is Care) proposes to celebrate the week before Easter as Care-Week, for the first time in 2016, as an experiment, as a new beginning with a traditional background: Instead of mourning dutifully our savior’s death let’s celebrate care! Christians might start by focusing on Jesus Christ’s not very masculine way of life instead of his death – and a new meaning of Easter? Non-Christians might join them by realizing the relevance of care, putting care on the map, taking action for example by following the proposals made on these seventeen postcard.

Further reading: 

Ina Praetorius, The Care-Centered Economy, Rediscovering what has been taken for granted, Berlin (Heinrich Böll Stiftung) 2015

Riane Eisler, The Real Wealth of Nations, San Francisco 2007