Civility, respect, care and justice: the ‘comfort of strangers’?

Marian Barnes

in Care in everyday life

Published by Policy Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9781847428233
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9781447307686 | DOI:
Civility, respect, care and justice: the ‘comfort of strangers’?

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Many of our day to day interactions are with ‘strangers’. Indeed for some isolated older people, interactions with strangers comprise the majority of their human contact. The conversations they have on buses, in shops, in the park may be the only conversation they have in a day. The way they are treated at the doctors surgery or when they pay a bill at the bank can make an important impact on their well-being. The concept of ‘respect’ has been invoked in the context of policies intended to counteract the perceived incivility of public behaviour – particularly amongst young people. A related concept – ‘recognition’, has been advanced as necessary to a full understanding of social justice. At both individual and collective level people need to experience positive recognition to feel that they are being properly and justly treated. This chapter considers a way of understanding the significance of stranger relationships through care ethics. As well as apparently casual face to face interactions with strangers, the chapter also discusses treatment of refugees and those with mental illness. It also reflects on interactions with unknown others through ICT in order to consider to relevance of care to distant as well as intimate relationships.

Keywords: Distant relationships; Global interdependencies; Refugees; International relations; Global care chain; Othering; Mental illness; Respect; Recognition; Online communities

Chapter.  8446 words. 

Subjects: Health, Illness, and Medicine

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