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Justice et injustices spatiales

Bernard Bret
Philippe Gervais-Lambony
Claire Hancock
et al.

Approches théoriques

Justice as Friendship: An Aristotelian Perspective on Global and Local Justice

Wynne Walker Moskop

Texte intégral

  • 1 Bromberg, Ava, Gregory D. Morrow, and Deirdre Pfeiffer. “Editorial Note: Why Spatial Justice”. Cri (...)
  • 2 Ally, Shireen. “Caring About Care Workers: Organizing in the Female Shadow of Globalization”. Labo (...)

1RECENT INTEREST IN SPATIAL JUSTICE among urban planners and geographers responds to global and local inequalities that have increasingly visible spatial parameters. UCLA’s journal Critical Planning emphasizes changing global trade patterns, a shift of responsibilities away from nation-states to transnational institutions (such as the EU, WTO & NAFTA) and subnational institutions (such as neighborhood associations), and a “concentration of investments in the most globally competitive urban agglomerations.” The concentration of resources in the most competitive urban regions goes hand-in-hand with the “decline of rustbelt and rural regions,” a pattern that appears locally “between have and have not neighborhoods” and globally “between have and have not global regions. The result is an intensification of a distinct pattern of geographic disparity1.” One well-documented example of this global pattern is the disparity associated with the migration of care workers from the global South to the global North2.

  • 3 Bromberg, Ava, Gregory D. Morrow, and Deirdre Pfeiffer. “Editorial Note: Why Spatial Justice”. Cri (...)

2In these examples, where differences of class, gender and race as well as geography can be mapped so easily, advocates of spatial justice scholars see that, in considerations of justice, differences matter. To them, “seeking justice means understanding the dialectical relationship between not only the economic and social conditions of different groups, but also the geography of injustice—that is, how the social production of space… impacts social groups and their opportunities3.” From this perspective, it is clear that the modern universalist versions of justice on which global justice movements have relied have limited usefulness because they neglect significant differences between groups of people. Spatial justice advocates search for an approach to justice that takes this differences into consideration.

3Their insights and their search are familiar to feminist scholars, who have resisted liberalism’s universal justice since 1982 when Carol Gilligan published In a Different Voice. Spatial justice scholars and feminists agree that modern principles of justice in Kantian-influenced paradigms such as those of Rawls and Habermas overlook difference. Modern justice reaches for impartiality, in the process casting marginalized persons and groups in the abstract and treating them as if they had the same autonomy and capability to choose as those who have more resources and power. This treatment of unequal persons as if they were the same perpetuates and, over time, increases inequality, when those with greater resources are able to take better advantage of every new opportunity. Feminists scholars have detailed how the universal citizen of the liberal social contract is historically and practically male. That is why rights of citizenship that are assumed to be the same for all have served the interests of men more than the interests of women.

  • 4 Tronto, Joan. Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. New York/London: Routle (...)
  • 5 Young, Iris Marion. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Pr (...)

4The feminist search for justice that accommodates differences has paved the way for thinking about spatial justice. Some feminist scholars have turned to an ethic of care as an alternative to modern universal justice. In recent years, care thinkers such as Joan Tronto have expanded the concept of care beyond the personal realm to analyze injustices at national and global levels4. Other feminist scholars—Iris Marion Young and Nancy Fraser among them—have focused on justice itself, searching out ways to address injustices that involve complex differences between social groups5. And spatial justice scholars have found their work useful.

  • 6 While a number of feminist scholars have focused on the importance of friendship and some have poi (...)

5I want to continue this discussion by focusing on a different aspect of justice: the nature of the relationship that makes commensurability between persons or groups possible. I propose friendship, as it is explained by Aristotle and elaborated further by Thomas Aquinas, as an approach to justice that facilitates the quest for justice in the context of difference because it suggests that justice actually is different in different contexts6. The lens of Aristotelian friendship links the search for alternatives to modern justice directly to spatial justice issues because understanding what is just between friends depends on understanding how the parties are related materially, in space.

6After laying out the parameters of Aristotelian friendship, I will illustrate how this approach can be useful for addressing spatial justice issues by reflecting on an example of spatial injustice—the migration of women care workers from the global South to the global North.

7According to Isabel Dyck, the work of feminist scholars on caring

  • 7 Dyck, Isabel. “Feminist Geography, the ‘Everyday,’ and Local–Global Relations: Hidden Spaces of Pl (...)

amply demonstrates the impact of global processes on spatially disparate locales, which, however, may be connected at the level of the everyday through caregiving activity. Configurations of care are reworked under conditions and contingencies deriving from locally felt effects of economic restructuring and migrations accompanying the unevenness of globalisation (Rankin 2003). These processes affect the composition and “spatiality” of family households7.

8In the context of oppressive global configurations that are made visible by the physical migration of care workers, Aristotelian friendship points toward the material, structural foundations of global relationships as a way to understand how different persons are connected to each other in relationships they may or may not recognize. Justice as friendship requires that we examine these relationships, identify the parties in the relationships, and consider what would be equitable between them, given the concrete nature of their association.

Justice, Commensurability, and Friendship

  • 8 Aquinas, ST II-II.58.1. McCluskey trans.

9According to Thomas Aquinas, the virtue of justice is “a habit by which one renders to others what is due to them by a steadfast and permanent will8.” Aquinas’ definition of justice suggests that what is due from one person to another depends not just on the agent’s intent and willpower, as is the case with other virtues, but on a standard of commensurability between parties that is external to the intent of either party. To understand what is just in particular relationships, one has to tease out the parameters of this commensurability.

10All understand that, in contracts, when we borrow and agree to repay, the commensurability between borrower and lender is set by the terms of the contract, independent of the interior motive of either party. As Aquinas explains:

  • 9 Aquinas, ST II-II.57.1. McCluskey trans.

What is called just in our activity is what corresponds to a certain equality to another, for example, the compensation of wages for a service rendered. Thus, therefore, something is called just, as if it has the rectitude of justice, that terminates in an act of justice, even when not considering how it is done by the agent. But with respect to the other virtues, something is not considered to be right except as it is done by the agent in a particular way. And on account of this, it belongs to justice especially over and above all the other virtues to be considered according to the object itself, which [object] is called “the just.” And this indeed is “the right9.”

  • 10 Aquinas, ST II-II.57.3.

11It is clear here that, what is just, or right depends on some standard whereby something is distributed according to what is equitable or right between two specific parties. It always pertains to what Aquinas describes as a kind of “equality” between two persons, in the sense that it entails a result that “is adjusted to or commensurate with another person10.”

12Related to this is a second characteristic of justice: While all other virtues are one-sided in focusing primarily on perfecting the interior state of the agent and incidentally on the effect on others, justice is two sided in focusing on whether the outcome or result of an action achieves justice for both parties.

  • 11 Aquinas, ST II-II.58.5

13Finally, it is important to note that these passages tie justice to the nature of a particular relationship. Unless we know how the parties are related, it will be impossible to determine what is right between them— what one person owes and another deserves because of the relationship between them. As Aquinas puts it, “Justice by its name implies equality, it denotes essentially relation to another, for a thing is equal, not to itself, but to another11.” In the absence of a definitive relationship, one has no basis for determining obligation or desert.

  • 12 Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. VIII.1.1155a29. Terence Irwin (trans.), 2nd ed. Indianapolis, IN: H (...)

14That justice involves an standard of equality or commensurability that is external to the agent, that it is two-sided in judging the effect of action on another party as well as on the agent, and that this judgment depends on the nature of the relationship between two parties suggest why Aristotle and Aquinas turn to friendship to help explain justice. According to Aristotle, “the justice that is most just seems to belong to friendship12.”

15Aristotle and Aquinas think of friendship in broad terms. They suggest that it is possible to think of friendship in all kinds of associations.

  • 13 Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics (NE) VIII.9.1159-b26-35.

16For in every community there seems to be some sort of justice, and some type of friendship also… fellow voyagers and fellow soldiers are called friends, and so are members of other communities. And the extent of their community is the extent of their friendship, since it is also the extent of the justice found there… But whereas brothers and companions have everything in common, what people have in common in other types of community is limited, since some friendships are also closer than other13.

  • 14 Ibid., VIII.1160a1-3.

17As Aristotle explains, justice, like friendship, is also different in different associations or communities: “It is not the same for parents toward children as for one brother toward another, and not the same for companions as for fellow citizens14.”

  • 15 Daniel Schwartz Porzecanski reviews Aquinas’ response to one of the main concerns of justice advoc (...)
  • 16 Aquinas, Thomas. Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. trans. OP C. I. Litzinger. Notre Da (...)
  • 17 Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. IX 1158a20-22.

18When Aristotle and Aquinas discuss friendship, they also offer us a better understanding of the external, two-sided, and relational components of justice15. The key to friendship in all kinds of associations is reciprocity. The requirement of reciprocity entails that friends “should wish one another well, and that this not be hidden from them, and that this is be on account of one of the… the good, the pleasurable, or the useful16.” While friends who wish each other well on account of the good are the best friends, Aristotle and Aquinas also recognize that persons may form lesser friendships on the basis of pleasure or utility. Aristotle notes that young people are more likely than older people to form friendships on the basis of pleasure. He cites mercenary people as an example of those who form friendships based on utility17. It is clear here that only the best kind of friendship is based on genuine caring. The lesser friendships that Aristotle and Aquinas discuss are more like reciprocal associations based on pleasure or utility.

19Regardless of the basis of friendship—utility, pleasure, or love—with-out mutual recognition of the other and mutual understanding of what type of good is involved in the relationship, there can be no real friendship. If only one party cares or loves, Aquinas says, we call that “benevolence” instead of friendship.

  • 18 Aquinas. NE VIII, lec. 2, 1559.

20When people wish good to someone for his sake we call them benevolent but not friends if the wish is not reciprocated so that the loved one wishes good to, and for the sake of, the one loving. The reason is that we say friendship is benevolence with corresponding requital inasmuch as the one loving is loved in return, for friendship has a kind of exchange of love after the manner of commutative justice18.

  • 19 Aquinas. NE VIII, lec. 5, 1605. See Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. 8.6.1157b39.

21The mutual love involved in friendship means that, like justice, “Friendship is a kind of equality19.”

  • 20 Aquinas. ST II-II.26.9.

22However, the requirement for equality between friends does not mean that persons who are unequal in some respect—parent and child, for instance—cannot be friends. And when unequal persons are friends, they do not owe each other the same things in the same proportion. For example, “the duty of children to their parents consists chiefly in honor; while that of parents to their children is especially one of care20.” The problem with any such relationship between unequal persons is to find a way that their “exchange” can be equalized and made just

  • 21 Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics (NE) 5.3.1131a15-b19; See Aquinas. NE V, lec. 4, 934-35.
  • 22 For example, Aquinas argues that “the father should be loved more than the mother. For father and (...)

23Aquinas and Aristotle turn to principles of distributive justice to show how this can be accomplished. Distributive justice is proportional. As Aristotle explains, it requires “four things, at least; the people for whom it is just are two, and the [equal] things involved are two.” As the just requires that equal persons receive equal shares and unequal persons receive unequal shares, “the just… is in some way proportionate21.” I draw on Aquinas’s examples of just relationships between unequal persons to illustrate his conceptual approach to the issue (not to adopt his medieval judgments or the particular hierarchical friendships which those judgments entail22.)

24Aquinas explains that, in unequal friendships,

  • 23 Aquinas. NE VIII, lec. 7, 1630. McCluskey trans.

Love must be given proportionately, namely so that the better one is loved more than he loves, and it is similarly the case with those who are more useful or more pleasant or more excellent in any other way whatsoever. For when each is loved in accordance with one’s worth, then a particular equality comes about, namely one of proportion, which appears relevant to friendship23.

  • 24 Aquinas. NE VIII, lec. 9, 1657-8. Insofar as this passage may imply that “superior” persons deserv (...)

25This line of argument can be applied to any association, because, as mentioned earlier, friendship and justice both “consist in association.” Moreover, every friendship can “be understood according to civic associations24,” and can be differentiated according to the diversity of association. For example, friendship between father and son resembles a monarchy in which the king rules because he is superior in excellence.

  • 25 Aquinas. NE VIII, lec. 11, 1693. McCluskey trans.

26In friendships of this sort, the same justice does not exist on the part of each in such a way that a king would do the same thing for those subject to him as the subject would do for the king, or a father for his son as the son for his father. Rather, what is just comes about for both in accordance with their individual worth when each does for the other what their worth determines. This is because in this way, the friendship between them is considered as a relationship where one loves the other in accordance with his worth25.

  • 26 Aquinas. ST II-II 26.8.

27It is important to note here that “worth” is defined in relation to the mutual good that is the basis for the particular friendship or association. Equalizing friends in all associations is possible through principles of distributive justice that recognize the merit of the parties with respect to the particular good that is the basis for the friendship and the purpose at which the friendship aims. For example, “Friendship among blood relations is based upon their connection by natural origin, the friendship of fellow-citizens on their civil fellowship and the friendship of those who are fighting side by side on the comradeship of battle26.” It is clear from these examples that one cannot determine what is just without knowing first the basis, or purpose, of the friendship and, then, the relative contribution that each party can appropriately make to that purpose.

28Modern justice thinkers might ask whether there is a problem with using different criteria for justice in different associations. How can we know what is just when the requirements of justice in one union seem to conflict with requirements of justice in another union?

  • 27 Aquinas. ST II-II.26.7.
  • 28 Aquinas. ST II-II.26.11.

29Aquinas suggests that we should first distinguish carefully between associations because obligations that appear to conflict may not. For instance, when a soldier in battle “obeys his officer rather than his father,” it “proves that he loves his father less,” not as regards the love due to a father, but “as regards the love which is based on fellowship in battle27.” It would be unjust in the context of battle to obey his father but it would presumably be just in activities governed by the father-son friendship. What about an instance where a person’s union with her spouse seems to conflict with her union with her parents? Aquinas answers that one should love parents more as the sources of one’s origin and with greater reverence, but one should love a husband or wife more intensely because they are “one flesh28.” While this does not provide an absolute guide to just action, it does provide a relational basis for sorting through obligations that seem to conflict.

30Another question that concerns modern justice advocates is: If we separate justice that pertains to imitate friends from justice that pertains to strangers, what is to keep us from always preferring the interests of those who are closer to us? How does friendship explain what may be due to those beyond our circles of recognized friends, associates, and citizens? Unlike abstract modern principles of justice, Aristotelian principles recognize differences between relationships, or associations, and differences between parties in a particular association. There is no reason that we cannot conceptualize relationships that are forged by global economic restructuring between parties who may not know each other, think of them as de facto associations, and consider what would make the exchange between parties commensurable. Below I illustrate how Aristotelian principles can be useful for illuminating injustices in transnational “associations” that are forged by global economic restructuring. In these instances, the parties may not recognize each other, or they may be associated in ways that are not friendly because they are not based on mutual good and there is no commensurability between parties.

Friendship and the Globalization of Care Work

31The globalization of care work and the concomitant shift of care resources from the Global South to the Global North disrupts existing associations and forges new associations. In each case, it is important to ask about commensurability between parties—whether they share some recognized good or purpose and whether the responsibilities and benefits relative to this good are equitably distributed. The disparity created in the redistribution of care resources from South to North lends itself to a discussion of spatial justice issues because it is visible enough to map. Not so easy to map are the multiple overlapping linkages that support this spatial injustice. Nevertheless, research on the migration of care workers yields a consistent picture.

  • 29 Misra, Joya, Jonathan Woodring, and Sabine N. Merz. “The Globalization of Care Work: Neoliberal Ec (...)

32In last half of the 20th century, shifts in global economy and changing demographics have led to increased participation of women in the international labor force as well as increased demand for the kind of care work traditionally performed by women. Neoliberal market strategies, not just in the U.S. but globally—facilitated by lending prescriptions from the World Bank and the IMF—have resulted in the downsizing of state welfare programs, reduced subsidies and taxes, and the entry of more women into the formal work sector. These factors have led to a crisis in the care work that had been performed by women, resulting in an increase in the demand for inexpensive care in the informal private sector for children, the elderly, the disabled29. But states have not responded to this demand. Instead “neoliberal strategies have led to an international division of care work that places the burden for care on the least powerful (immigrant women workers)”:

  • 30 Heyzer and Wee, 1994, p. 44-45, quoted by MISRA, “The Globalization of Care Work: Neoliberal Econo (...)

The shifting division of responsibility between the State and the family for the social reproduction of everyday life has, thereby, been transformed into a transnational division of labour between middle class woman and working-class woman… this results in hidden savings for the governments of the receiving countries, because the need for adequate state investments in child care, care of the handicapped, care of the elderly and other social services is instead provided for by the income subsidy of middle class professional women and by the labour subsidy of relatively low-paid female migrant workers30.

  • 31 Robinson, Fiona. “Gender, Globalization and the Crisis of Care”. International Studies Association(...)

33This increased participation of women in formal work and the increased demand for the informal care work traditionally done by women shape lives and space differently in the developed North and the developing South31. (This is not to say that the poor in both regions do not have many similar problems.)

  • 32 Ibid., p. 5-6.

34In the global North, more women choose to join the work force than in the global South; they do it for financial independence or for satisfaction. However, financial need is still the reason why most women in the North work. The problem is most difficult for poor single mothers who must choose between working and caring for their children. The demand for care work in the North is satisfied increasingly by migrant women of color from the global South who provide a cheap source of child and household care32.

  • 33 Ibid., p. 8.

35There is also an increased demand for care work in the global South. Here poor women often face a choice more desperate than middle class and many women in the North. They must work so that they and their children can survive. But then their children or dependent parents go without supervision. Manufacturing jobs are not flexible enough to allow women to do care for their children or other dependents. They leave their children alone, or with extended family if they’re lucky, or with older siblings who are then deprived of education. In addition, in the global south, there are more children and elderly who need care, more illness, and lower educational attainment than in the North. Also the need for care generated by violence and natural disaster is greater in the South than in the North33.

  • 34 Ibid., p. 8-9.

36The bottom line is that the need for care is most pressing among people whose human resources are going toward care for families in the North. These families increasingly turn “to poorer and more vulnerable populations to help them carry out their obligations in the private sphere while continuing to participate in the public sphere (Bakan and Stasilulis (2005:25).” Countries in the south often encourage this migration of women care workers to the north because the remittances they send back are so important34.

37In this context, where the North is draining the South of resources as care workers migrate, we see global connections between persons and states who are not equal. Re-stated in terms of associations, the narrative that emerges from research on the globalization of care work draws attention to several implicit associations in which the parties lack commensurability. Among these are associations between employers and labor, between states and mothers who are drawn into the workforce without state support for childcare, between working families in the North and low paid migrant women from the South who care for their children, between developed states that need childcare for their work force and developing states whose care workers respond because they lack employment opportunities at home, between global lending institutions (and their corporate and state supporters) and developing states.

  • 35 Ibid., p. 13.

38These overlapping, often unrecognized associations testify that we are connected with others in webs of relationships that often are not visible to us, though they contribute to visible spatial injustice. Unfriendly care work associations at both micro and macro levels have drawn criticism of scholars. At the micro level, the structural association between migrant nannies and more affluent women is problematic for two reasons. More obviously, it exploits the labor of the migrant nannies. However, it also does not help affluent women. Rather it supports a gendered vision of labor that where women work two shifts, one outside the home and one inside, and men only work one shift. At the macro level, the implicit care contract whereby the South provides care workers needed in the North is a form of “feminized neocolonialism.”“ It ignores the pervasive racial and geopolitical power imbalances at play and the suffering, loss and exploitation suffered by… migrant women.” Further it “overlooks the failure of most First World governments to meet the need for care work that is created when more women work35 ”.

39As these criticisms convey, it is important to identify how we are associated with others through social structures, ask whether the associations are potential friendships, and look for ways to encourage those that are and to discourage those that are not. In the case of migrant care workers, we can ask: What factors and forces produce their situation? Who are the chief agents involved in these forces? How do their actions affect migrant care workers? Where are friendly associates to be found?

40According to research on the migration of women care workers, some of these global linkages are not in doubt. The chief and most powerful actors are developed states, multinational corporations, and transnational lending institutions. It is clear that these agents often associate voluntarily with each other in a way that benefits each one. To the extent that the purpose of the association is a particular kind of utility that is clear to major parties that are equal in their power to enter the association, the parties in this association are not unjust vis-a-vis each other. From Aristotle’s perspective, their friendship is based on utility, the most superficial form of good that can be shared by friends.

41However, the effects of the agreements between global economic powers are felt by others who either are not partners to their agreements (the poor in their own countries and migrant care workers) or are involuntary partners (developing states that agree to exploitative conditions because they need an infusion of capital.) To put it another way, the voluntary utilitarian “friendships” among powerful global actors are related to de facto unfriendly associations between the powerful actors and parties who do not associate voluntarily or are not recognized as equal partners—as the harmful consequences of their association with more powerful corporations and states testify. There is no commensurability in such an association.

42Obviously there is an exchange of some sort, when developing states make economic concessions in return for loans from the powerful global actors, or when domestic workers in the South migrate to the North in return for low wages from working families there. However, the practical purpose of such de facto and involuntary associations is determined by practices of powerful agents in the developed world who serve their own interests at the expense of developing countries, their citizens, and the care workers who migrate in order to support their families. From an Aristotelian perspective, these exchanges and the associations they structure are unfriendly and unjust because their purpose does not involve mutual good, and the commensurability that Aristotle and Aquinas look for in friendly associations is absent.

43It is clear that the IMF and World Bank and the developed states that benefit from cheap migrant care work do not share this perspective. They do not perceive themselves to be in association with migrant women care workers. And they view their association with developing states as contracts entered freely by independent agents. Through their neoliberal capitalist lens, both the developed and developing states, both economic powers and migrant care workers can choose to make contracts that serve their own interest.

44The lens of Aristotelian friendship objects that, in reality, economic actors such as lending institutions, corporations, and developed states function as autonomous decision makers similar to the traditional male breadwinner, who has been cast in classical liberal terms as “independent,” while the woman on whom he depends to care for his house and children operates in an entirely separate private sphere which is “dependent” on his largesse. Like the male-breadwinner, powerful global actors have the power to decide, to contract with other agents. Impoverished states, like the wife of the breadwinner, enter a kind of marriage contract that is advantageous only in the sense that it is the only alternative offered. The position of migrant women care workers in the global economy is similar. They are at the mercy of the employers for whom they agree to work. The difference between their status and the status of the breadwinner’s wife is that the global linkages between powerful economic agents and migrant care workers is so far removed from everyday encounters that they are not necessarily visible; we know them by the footprints they leave in spaces and places.


45To answer the question of how friendly associations might be formed and what common purpose might support them, the work of Nancy Fraser is helpful. Fraser helps trace the causes of global forces, showing how groups of people who do not know each other are linked in what might be called potential associations, or friendships. Fraser describes the conditions we face to find “friends” outside the customary boundaries of national citizenship.

  • 36 Fraser and Honneth. Redistribution or Recognition: A Political –Philosophical Exchange. New york/L (...)

46The cumulative weight of transnational processes is calling into question an underlying premise of [the nation-state] system, the premise of exclusive indivisible citizenship, determined by nationality and/or territorial residence. The result is to reproblematize a matter that had previously seemed settled, at least in principle: the sources and boundaries of political membership. More generally, globalization is currently de-centering the national frame that previously delimited most struggles for justice, whether focused on status or class36.

47Fraser points to the need for another frame, or multiple frames, for identifying transnational associations, so that we may deliberate about the requirements of justice in those “friendships” along with the requirements of justice in local and national communities, among kin, and among friends we choose. Globalizing forces have left us in search of unnamed potential associations. It is the task of justice as friendship to illuminate the nature of these associations so that their “members” can see how they are interdependent and recognize each other as associates.

48How can migrant care workers find friendly associates? How can they form friendships that are capable of discouraging the harmful consequences of global restructuring? This is a tough requirement for marginalized peoples.

  • 37 Ally, Shireen. “Caring About Care Workers: Organizing in the Female Shadow of Globalization”, op. (...)

49The research of Shireen Ally on the history of domestic workers’ organizing offers some clues about how workers who are not necessarily visible to each other can be associated37. The organization of domestic workers has been problematic, but not as problematic as their isolation from each other might suggest. Ally finds two models of domestic workers’ organizations, an associational model and a union model. Both are capable of friendship in the Aristotelian sense.

50In the associational model, domestic workers look for other organizations that share some of their concerns. For instance, legal aid organizations often focus on the ethnic and gender exploitation that draws immigrant domestic workers together. The resulting alliances can be broader coalitions of organizations capable of functioning as counter-publics that pursue a broad common goal. While this model addresses systemic injustices on the wider terrain that is required, its focus on broad issues of race or gender is less representative of the specific issues of domestic workers. This model has the potential for friendship, but the basis of the friendship needs more investigation and wider articulation to arrive at standards for commensurability between parties.

  • 38 Ibid., p. 188.
  • 39 Ibid., p. 189-90.

51In contrast to the associational model, the union model is more representative of the domestic workers. Its focus is class. While students of labor organizing, as well as unions themselves, have often believed that domestic work has not lent itself to organizing because workers were not joined together in a common setting, there is actually a history of domestic workers unions—in the U.S., Latin America and Africa38. The problem is that these organizations have not been sustained39. The reason, however, is not that they are not possible but that traditional unions have not given them priority. The research of Ally suggests that union organizers would do well to explore the associational model of domestic workers if they are to counter unfriendly associations in a neoliberal global public sphere, where race and gender are often more immediate mobilizing factors than class. The structures that shape the world of migrant care workers suggest that there may be a potential for friendship in drawing gender and race into the traditional class-orientation of union organizations.

  • 40 Townsned, J. G. and A. R. Townsend, “Accountability, motivation and practice: NGOs North and South (...)
  • 41 Ibid., p. 281.

52Still another approach to forming friendlier associations is through transnational NGOs. The problem here is that NGOs are accountable to donors—often to the same corporations and states whose interests condition the lending strategies of transnational financial institutions— more than they are to the recipients of the various forms of aid they dispense40. The NGOs that respond to donor interests are at best merciful, but they are not friends with the recipients of aid as long as they respond more to donors than to recipients. The experience of some transnational NGOs’ suggests that NGOs can form friendships that involve reciprocity, but Townsend and Townsend note that “these represent the exceptions.” They give an example of public housing areas in North-East English, where large community organizations have been established with “strong constitutions guaranteeing important voting rights to residents41.” The catch appears to be to avoid accountability only to donor organizations. Commensurability requires accountability to the less powerful “recipients” of aid.

  • 42 Ally, Shireen. “Caring About Care Workers: Organizing in the Female Shadow of Globalization”, op. (...)

53In the end, how just associations or friendships can be formed transnationally is a practical matter. The associational model described above has a more heterogeneous membership, tends to focus on broader issues, and is less representative of the persons directly involved. The union model is narrower, more representative, and also more resisted by formal labor42.

54In the U.S., both kinds of organizations, for example, civil rights organizations and unions, as well as the federal courts, have played a role historically in reducing exploitation of labor. If the globalization of exploitation that is illustrated by the globalization of care work requires similar responses, this suggests a need for a transnational institution to consider the justice of these issues, a system to detect and adjudicate exploitative labor and lending practices. The final arbiter cannot be an international court or an economic version of the UN because these institutions rely for enforcement entirely on states that tend not to represent marginalized groups. What kind of forum can adjudicate claims by transnational care workers’ unions and coalitions of transnational human rights organizations about unjust associations? To avoid abstract liberal justice in favor of justice between friends—to search for commensurability between unequal and involuntary associates, the adjudication system would have to incorporate some features of labor arbitration, where decisions center on basic equity, on issues of distributive justice—on commensurability between parties.

  • 43 Bromberg, Ava, Gregory D. Morrow, and Deirdre Pfeiffer, “Editorial Note: Why Spatial Justice”. Cri (...)

55The editors of Critical Planning are on target when they argue that a greater degree of spatial justice would require “active negotiations of multiple publics, in search of productive ways to build solidarities across difference43.” I suggest that it may help to think of these publics as associations and to consider whether the parties can qualify as friends, as Aristotle and Aquinas understand the term. The goals would be: 1) to identify actual and de facto association are that are not friendships, because they are not reciprocal, not based on mutual good, and to expose the nature of their injustice; 2) to identify actual and de facto associations that have potential as friendships because they connect on the basis of a mutual good and their contributions to that good are (or can be) commensurable, and encourage them to organize; 3) ultimately, to develop transnational institutions that reflect broad publics and have the capacity to adjudicate exploitative labor and lending practices that are unfriendly and unjust.


1 Bromberg, Ava, Gregory D. Morrow, and Deirdre Pfeiffer. “Editorial Note: Why Spatial Justice”. Critical Planning. 14, Summer, 2007.

2 Ally, Shireen. “Caring About Care Workers: Organizing in the Female Shadow of Globalization”. Labour, Capital and Society. 38, 1 & 2, 2005; Robinson, Fiona. “Gender, Globalization and the Crisis of Care”. International Studies Association, San Diego: CA, 2006a. Dyck, Isabel. “Feminist Geography, the ‘Everyday,’ and Local–Global Relations: Hidden Spaces of Place-Making”. Canadian Geographern 49. 3, 2005. Misra, Joya, Jonathan Woodring, and Sabine N. Merz. “The Globalization of Care Work: Neoliberal Economic Restructuring and Migration Policy”. Globalizations, 3. 3,2006.

3 Bromberg, Ava, Gregory D. Morrow, and Deirdre Pfeiffer. “Editorial Note: Why Spatial Justice”. Critical Planning 14. Summer 2007, p. 1-4.

4 Tronto, Joan. Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. New York/London: Routledge, 1993.

5 Young, Iris Marion. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Fraser, Nancy, and Axel Honneth. Redistribution or Recognition: A Political –Philosophical Exchange. Joel Golb, James Ingram, and Christiane Wilke (trans.). New York: Verso, 2003.

6 While a number of feminist scholars have focused on the importance of friendship and some have pointed out the need to explore ancient writings on friendship, this line of argument is largely undeveloped. For others who have turned to friendship in their efforts to synthesize, see especially Friedman, Marilyn. What Are Friends For: Feminist Perspectives on Personal Relationships and Moral Theory. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993. Friedman, Marilyn. “Beyond Caring: The De-Moralization of Gender”. Justice and Care: Essential Readings in Feminist Ethics. Virginia Held (ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995. Friedman comments that “moral thinking has not always disassociated the domain of justice from that of close personal relationships. The earliest Greek code of justice placed friendship at the forefront of conditions for the realization of justice” (66). Grace Clement notes ways in which care and justice provide a foundation for each other (117-22). Clement, Grace. Care, Autonomy, and Justice: Feminism and the Ethic of Care. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1992. Diemet Elisabet Bubeck argues that “considerations of justice have to form part of an ethic of care if it is to be acceptable at all” (13). Bubeck, Diemet Elisabet. Care, Gender, and Justice, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1995. Some feminists scholars turn specifically to Aristotelian friendship: Groenhout, Ruth. “The Virtue of Care: Aristotelian Ethics and Contemporary Ethics of Care”. Feminist Interpretations of Aristotle, Cynthia A. Freeland (ed.). University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998. Claudia Card also turn to friendship, specifically Aristotelian friendship. Card, Claudia. “Particular Justice and General Care”. Controversies in Feminism, James Sterba (ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001. Sibyl Schwarzenbach argues that something like Aristotle’s “civic friendship” holds the modern state together. Unfortunately, she identifies women’s traditional activity as a source of civic friendship, so that her argument does not disentangle friendship from the hierarchical version of care, though she does are that “an aspect of the proper aim of reproductive praxis is simply friendship (p. 103).” Schwarzenbach, Sibyl A. “On Civic Friendship”. Ethics 107, October 1996. Chris Farrands notes that friendship is grounded is particular stories and myths and “citizenship is grounded in the universal.” However, his attempt to use Derrida’s work on friendship to draw them together relies on compassion to extend friendship beyond friends; to this extent it begins to resemble the hierarchical version of care. Farrands, Chris. “Touching Friendship Beyond Friendship: Friendship and Citizenship in Global Politics”. Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 26. 2, 2001.

7 Dyck, Isabel. “Feminist Geography, the ‘Everyday,’ and Local–Global Relations: Hidden Spaces of Place-Making”. Canadian Geographer 49. 3, 2005, p. 233-43.

8 Aquinas, ST II-II.58.1. McCluskey trans.

9 Aquinas, ST II-II.57.1. McCluskey trans.

10 Aquinas, ST II-II.57.3.

11 Aquinas, ST II-II.58.5

12 Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. VIII.1.1155a29. Terence Irwin (trans.), 2nd ed. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1999. James Schall, S.J., argues that, “In Aristotle, and also in St. Thomas, friendship is more important than justice, even in the city, especially in the city. The fact is that when Aquinas comes to discuss the highest of the Christian virtues, charity, he bases his discussion on friendship (amicitia), not on justice. This choice of Aquinas may be the most important selection in all of social philosophy both by way of confirmation of Aristotle and by way of emphasizing something beyond him. Unlike justice, which looks to the abstract relationship between persons in terms of what is due or not due, not to the persons themselves, friendship and charity look primarily to the person who is the object of our friendship or love. This emphasis on friendship may be one of the most consoling and striking teachings in all of Aristotle or Aquinas.” Schall, James V. “The Uniqueness of the Political Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas”. Perspectives in Political Science 26, Spring, 1997. While this overstates the abstract nature of justice and underestimates the importance of particular relationships to determining “what is due or not due,” it captures the strong connection between friendship and justice. For a reading of Aquinas that links justice and friendship without agreeing on the priority of friendship, see Schwartz Porzecanski, Daniel. “Friendship and the Circumstances of Justice According to Aquinas”. The Review of Politics 66. 1, 2004.

13 Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics (NE) VIII.9.1159-b26-35.

14 Ibid., VIII.1160a1-3.

15 Daniel Schwartz Porzecanski reviews Aquinas’ response to one of the main concerns of justice advocates—whether friendship and community, as forms of caring, interfere with justice. He concludes that, for Aquinas, as a relationship between persons becomes more equal, more of a partnership, “friendship and the possibility of just interaction arise concomitantly” (54). His argument does not specifically address the problem of hierarchy in care, which would require consideration of friendship between unequals. Porzecanski, “Friendship and the Circumstances of Justice According to Aquinas”.

16 Aquinas, Thomas. Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. trans. OP C. I. Litzinger. Notre Dame, IN: Dumb Ox Books, 1993. NE VIII, lec. 2 1560-61. McCluskey trans.

17 Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. IX 1158a20-22.

18 Aquinas. NE VIII, lec. 2, 1559.

19 Aquinas. NE VIII, lec. 5, 1605. See Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. 8.6.1157b39.

20 Aquinas. ST II-II.26.9.

21 Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics (NE) 5.3.1131a15-b19; See Aquinas. NE V, lec. 4, 934-35.

22 For example, Aquinas argues that “the father should be loved more than the mother. For father and mother are loved as principles of our natural origin. Now the father is principle in a more excellent way than the mother, because he is the active principle, while the mother is a passive and material principle. Consequently, strictly speaking, the father is to be loved more” (ST II-II.26.10).

23 Aquinas. NE VIII, lec. 7, 1630. McCluskey trans.

24 Aquinas. NE VIII, lec. 9, 1657-8. Insofar as this passage may imply that “superior” persons deserve more love, it may seem to support injustice. Elsewhere Aquinas gives more detail that suggests that persons give and receive love in different forms and to different degrees. See discussion below.

25 Aquinas. NE VIII, lec. 11, 1693. McCluskey trans.

26 Aquinas. ST II-II 26.8.

27 Aquinas. ST II-II.26.7.

28 Aquinas. ST II-II.26.11.

29 Misra, Joya, Jonathan Woodring, and Sabine N. Merz. “The Globalization of Care Work: Neoliberal Economic Restructuring and Migration Policy”. Globalizations 3. 3, 2006.

30 Heyzer and Wee, 1994, p. 44-45, quoted by MISRA, “The Globalization of Care Work: Neoliberal Economic Restructuring and Migration Policy”, op. cit., p. 318-319.

31 Robinson, Fiona. “Gender, Globalization and the Crisis of Care”. International Studies Association, San Diego: CA, 2006a.

32 Ibid., p. 5-6.

33 Ibid., p. 8.

34 Ibid., p. 8-9.

35 Ibid., p. 13.

36 Fraser and Honneth. Redistribution or Recognition: A Political –Philosophical Exchange. New york/London: Verso, p. 90.

37 Ally, Shireen. “Caring About Care Workers: Organizing in the Female Shadow of Globalization”, op. cit., 2005

38 Ibid., p. 188.

39 Ibid., p. 189-90.

40 Townsned, J. G. and A. R. Townsend, “Accountability, motivation and practice: NGOs North and South.” Social & Cultural Geography 5, June, p. 271-272

41 Ibid., p. 281.

42 Ally, Shireen. “Caring About Care Workers: Organizing in the Female Shadow of Globalization”, op. cit., 2005.

43 Bromberg, Ava, Gregory D. Morrow, and Deirdre Pfeiffer, “Editorial Note: Why Spatial Justice”. Critical Planning 14, Summer, 2007, p. 2.


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