Empowering care

November 11, 2018

Commercialism that I am closely looking at during this seminar can also be seen as ‘infrastructure for identity’, which is obviously a very pessimistic ascertainment, but unfortunately not that far from modern reality. It is a highly neoliberal construct and – as Virginia Held states – ethics of care are unlikely to be implemented in it.

The ethics of care is, instead, hospitable to the relatedness of persons. It sees many of our responsibilities as not freely entered into but presented to us by the accidents of our embeddedness in familial and social and historical contexts. It often calls on us to take responsibility, while liberal individualist morality focuses on how we should leave each other alone. (Held V., The Ethics of Care as Moral Theory)

Imagining that someone could try to ‘care’ about marketing (considering the emotional load this word brings in) is rather improbable. I believe this rule does not apply to traditionally understood infrastructure (see: Useless love (in memoriam)) – there is space for anthropomorphism while talking about metro trains and stations, bridges, small pavilions or – apparently – heating pipes.

In this case it is just impossible to think of architecture that provides ‘care’, but one could think of other supportive roles it can play – maintenance, stimulation, addition, empowerment.

The immaterial network of commercials does require material, architectural objects – in the most banal way it needs storage for things it sells or factories to produce them. Although it is to be remembered that soft (light) capitalism of our times differs drastically in this matter from its previous, solid version – where business was inseparably bounded with place of production. In that sense, the empowering ability of architecture seem to become primary. This phenomenon is simply performed by headquarters – and it’s enough to think of Silicon Valley here.

Beside its social or artistic premises, architecture has a history of serving particular systems and having representativeness as main design ideal. With all the spatial possibilities it offers, it can be easily transformed into symbol of power. It can be impressive to announce different state conditions – sometimes royal luxury, sometimes a totalitarian dictatorship, always underlining the importance of the founder. Capitalism is no different in this matter – it seeks attention and prestige just as much. Architecture of UAE sets a perfect example.

Of all the arts, it really speaks a powerful language. Using this language to describe a certain built-up image is in fact very far from ‘care’ in a moral sense we would like to understand it, but one cannot deny that it is a strong form of support.

07 / Kinga Zemła



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