An Ethics of Needs: Deconstructing Neoliberal Biopolitics and Care Ethics with Derrida and Spivak

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The body in need of care is the subaltern of the neoliberal epistemic order: it is that which cannot be heard, and that which is muted, partially so even in care ethics. In order to read the writing by which the needy body writes the world, a new ethics must be articulated. Building on Jacques Derrida’s philosophy of deconstruction, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s notions of subalternity and epistemic violence, critical disability scholarship, and corporeal care theories, in this article I develop an ethics of needs. This is an ethical position that seeks to read the world that care needs write with the relations they enact. The ethics of needs deconstructs the world with a focus on those care needs that are presently responded to with neglect, indifference, or even violence: the absence of care. Specifically, the ethics of needs opens a space—a spacing, an aporia—for a more ethical politics of life than neoliberal biopolitics can ever provide, namely, the politics of life of needs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number73
Number of pages21
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • biopolitics
  • corporeality
  • deconstruction
  • ethics of care
  • ethics of needs
  • the body

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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