To Preserve, Present, and Engage/Préserver, présenter et engager
The theme for EHA 2023 is ‘Love and Toil, Care and Work’. While Adam Smith defined economics in terms of wealth creation and Lionel Robbins in terms of limited means and unlimited ends, Alfred Marshall thought of it as ‘…a study of men (sic) as they live and move and think in the ordinary business of life’.
Nothing could be more ordinary than caring. It takes place all the time and all around us. It involves diverse tasks, which can be commercialised but are often unpaid, although sometimes very labour intensive. Care can be provided domestically, or in the community, but today it is increasingly globalised. Most importantly, care adds significantly to wellbeing, and simultaneously enhances productivity. However, (and here I build on last year’s theme), caring work is hidden in plain sight. Since it is often unpaid and performed in private households this is perhaps understandable, yet we recognise and impute values to other non-market activities. Moreover, commercialised caring is also neglected and undervalued, despite constituting a significant sector of most economies. It takes a pandemic of catastrophic proportions to reveal care’s importance. But while we applauded our carers not so long ago, they and their product are already fading from our economic consciousness. The program committee calls for papers that identify caring’s importance, not only to secure a more complete account of the ordinary business of life, but also to augment, perhaps even correct, standard interpretations of economic history framed in terms of Smithian enrichment or Robbinsian rational allocative order.