Vulnerability and Response‑Ability in the Pandemic Marketplace

Developing an Ethic of Care for Provisioning in Crisis

This new paper by Susi Geiger, Ilaria Galasso, Nora Hangel, Federica Lucivero and Gemma Watts draws on the ethics of care to investigate how citizens grappled with ethical tensions in the mundane practice of grocery shopping at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The authors use this case to address the broader question of what it means ‘to care’ in the context of a crisis. Based on a qualitative longitudinal cross-country interview study, they find that the pandemic transformed ordinary shopping spaces into places fraught with a sense of fear and vulnerability. Being forced to face one’s own vulnerability created an opportunity for individuals to relate to one another as significant others through a sense of “response-ability”, or the capacity of people to respond to ethical demands through situated ethical reasoning. They argue for a practical ethos of care in which seemingly small decisions such as how often to go shopping and how much to buy of a particular product serve as a means to relate to both specified and generalized others—and through this, ‘care with’ society. The study contributes to displacing the continuing prevalence of an abstract and prescriptive morality in consumption ethics with a situated and affective politics of care.

This paper draws upon data collected in the context of the multinational study “Solidarity in times of a pandemic: What do people do, and why?”, coordinated by the Center for the Study of Contemporary Solidarity (CeSCoS) at the University of Vienna, Austria. For a list of country leads and partners, see:


Read the blog entry by the University of Vienna here

The full study is published in a scientific journal:

Geiger, S., Galasso, I., Hangel, N. et al. Vulnerability and Response-Ability in the Pandemic Marketplace: Developing an Ethic of Care for Provisioning in Crisis. J Bus Ethics (2023). 


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