This paper advances a framework to conceptualize societal care-giving arrangements abstractly. It is abstract in that it brackets the meaning of our particular relationships. This framework, which I call “the arrow of care map”, is a descriptive tracking model that is a necessary component of a theory of justice, but it is not a normative prescription in itself. The basic idea of the map is then multiply specifiable to track various ascriptive identity categories as well as different categories of care labor. In this way, the idea of the arrow of care map serves as a conceptual frame within which to begin to understand every human society’s care-giving arrangement. I characterize it as a component of “ideal theory” insofar as it seeks to clarify our values, without the immediate aim of formulating principles to govern a just society. The resultant partial theory of justice is one that responds to non-ideal theory’s critiques of the ideological nature of liberal contractarianism’s idealizations and abstractions while moving towards new visions of a just society.



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