Social Policy and Society

Themed Section on Care, Values and the Future of Welfare

Why we should Care about Friends: An Argument for Queering the Care Imaginary in Social Policy

Sasha Roseneil a1
a1 ESRC Research Group on Care, Values and the Future of Welfare (CAVA), School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds E-mail:

Article author query
roseneil s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


This paper sets out an argument for the re-imagining of care in social policy on three interrelated grounds: epistemological–theoretical, substantive socio-historical, and normative political–philosophical. It takes up the epistemological challenge offered by queer theory to propose a different gaze be cast on care which recognizes the practices of care which take place outside normative heterosexual couples and families. Following on from this, it suggests that the care that has been the object of study in social policy has failed to keep up with transformations in the realm of sociability which characterize the contemporary world. It outlines findings of research which show the increasing importance of friendship to those at the cutting edge of processes of individualization. Finally, it points to the new and valuable lens that the study of caring practices of friends might cast on the ethics of care, and it ends with some pointers to what it might mean for social policy to take friendship seriously.