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This review focuses on the concept of care, a concept that has never been more popular as a focus of study. It undertakes a critical review, motivated by the breadth of the field and the lack of coherence and linkages across a diverse literature. The review concentrates first on organizing and reviewing the literature in terms of key focus and, second, drawing out the strengths and weaknesses of existing work and making suggestions for how future work might proceed in COVID-19 times. While the existing literature offers many insights, some quite basic things need to be reconsidered, not least definition and conceptualization. Defining care as based on the meeting of perceived welfare-related need, I develop it as comprising need, relations/actors, resources and ideas and values. Each of these dimensions has an inherent disposition towards the study of inequality and it is possible, either by looking at them individually or all together, to identify care as situated in relations of relative power and inequality. The framework allows a set of critical questions to be posed in relation to COVID-19 and the policies and resources that have been mustered in response.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of European Social Policy

Publication Date





108 - 118