Who Cares? Women in the Mixed Economy of Care

  • Mary Langan
Part of the Women in Society book series


A number of commentators have argued that the term ‘mixed economy of welfare’ implies a false counterposition between the (private) sphere of the capitalist economy, which operates according to rigorous free market principles, and the (public) world of welfare which caters simply to social need (Walker, 1984; Knapp, 1989; McCarthy, 1989). Ever since the emergence of the welfare state in the 1940s, the profitable expansion of private capital has always set an external limit on public expenditure on welfare. For the same period, welfare benefits and services have been provided through a mix of private and public mechanisms. Walker writes of a continuum in which the two extremes rarely appear in a pure form, and of ‘vague and shifting’ borderlines in a complex ‘social division of welfare’ (Walker, 1984, pp. 19–26). Knapp distinguishes four sectors of supply (public, voluntary, informal and private) and six varieties of demand, producing a ‘24-celled matrix’ offering ‘a bewildering variety’ of ways of delivering and financing welfare (Knapp, 1989, p. 23). What is less well recognised is that all sectors of the mixed economy of welfare rely heavily on the labour of women, whether paid in diverse caring occupations, or more commonly, unpaid in the home (Pascall, 1986).


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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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  • Mary Langan

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