Care-ful Work: An Ethics of Care Approach to Contingent Labour in the Creative Industries

Ana Alacovska*, Joëlle Bissonnette

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Studies of creative industries typically contend that creative work is profoundly precarious, taking place on a freelance basis in highly competitive, individualized and contingent labour markets. Such studies depict creative workers as correspondingly self-enterprising, self-reliant, self-interested and calculative agents who valorise care-free independence. In contrast, we adopt the ‘ethics of care’ approach to explore, recognize and appreciate the communitarian, relational and moral considerations as well as interpersonal connectedness and interdependencies that underpin creative work. Drawing on in-depth interviews with creative workers in a range of marginal socio-cultural contexts, we argue that creative workers cultivate and sustain a diverse array of practices of care arising from an affective concern with the well-being of others. Far from being merely individualistic and crudely competitive actors, creative workers enact practical ethical responsibilities and affectivities towards a range of human and non-human others, including families, local communities and neighbourhoods, colleagues, artistic scenes and their adjacent genres, and surrounding national and linguistic cultures. In emphasizing the fundamental and structuring role of care in contingent labour markets our approach accords with recent trends in the social sciences that ‘affirmatively’—as opposed to ‘negatively’ and ‘suspiciously’—recognize that mutuality, solidarity and affectivity are powerful drivers of action on a par with or even exceeding market-driven self-centredness.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)135-151
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 28. October 2019


  • Creative work
  • Cultural labour
  • Caring
  • Care
  • Ethics of care
  • Compassion
  • Creative industries
  • Moral work
  • Informal work
  • Marginal contexts

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