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

  • Ana AlacovskaEmail author
  • Joëlle Bissonnette
Original Paper


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.


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



These researches were supported by Direktion für Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit (Grant no: MK_211), Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

The research involved human participants and hence entailed dealing with personal data that have been managed, stored and protected in accordance with the Research Data Management requirements and Ethical Approval procedures in operation at the relevant national research institutions.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all the participants in the study. All the participants were guaranteed confidentiality, anonymity and privacy.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management, Society and CommunicationCopenhagen Business SchoolFrederiksbergDenmark
  2. 2.Department of ManagementHEC MontréalMontréalCanada

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