The mask of care and love

John McKnight on the service provider’s mask of care and love:

Behind that mask is simply the servicer, his systems, techniques and technologies – a business in need of markets, an economy seeking new growth potential, professionals in need of an income.

It is crucial that we understand that this mask of service is not a false face. The power of the ideology of service is demonstrated by the fact that most servicers cannot distinguish the mask from their own face. The service ideology is not hypocritical because hypocrisy is the false pretence of a desirable goal. The modernized servicer believes in his care and love, perhaps more than even the serviced. The mask is the face. The service ideology is not conspiratorial. A conspiracy is a group decision to create an exploitative result. The modernized servicer honestly joins his fellows to create a supposedly beneficial result. The masks are the faces.

In order to distinguish the mask and the face it is necessary to consider another symbol – need. We say love is a need. Care is a need. Service is a need. Servicers meet needs. People are collections of needs. Society has needs. The economy should be organized to meet needs. In a modernized society where the major business is service, the political reality is that the central “need” is an adequate income for professional servicers and the economic growth they portend. The masks of love and care obscure this reality so that the public cannot recognize the professionalized interests that manufacture needs in order to rationalize a service economy. Medicare, Educare, Judicare, Socialcare and Psychocare are portrayed as systems to meet need rather than programmes to meet the needs of servicers and the economies they support.

Removing the mask of love shows us the face of the servicers who need income, and an economic system that needs growth. Within this framework, the client is less a person in need than a person who is needed. In business terms, the client is less the consumer than the raw material for the servicing system. In management terms, the client becomes both the output and the input. His essential function is to meet the needs of servicers, the servicing system and the national economy. The central political issue becomes the servicers’ capacity to manufacture needs in order to expand the economy of the servicing system.

Excerpt from his essay ‘Personalized Service and Disabling Help’.

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