Critical policy analysis, compassion, virtue ethics, human suffering


Human suffering is always present in society. There is general consensus that action should be taken to address suffering, but there are differing views as to the appropriate means of doing so. In this paper we utilize a classical understanding of the virtue of compassion to answer the research question: How does contemporary U.S. policy address human suffering through compassionate response? To answer this question, we conduct a critical analysis of three policy domains (hospice care, domestic violence, and disaster relief) to determine variation in response to human suffering. Comparisons among the domains suggest the various ways in which compassion can be observed within formal social policy. We discuss the implications of a compassion-focused approach to analysis of policies that address human suffering, and more broadly, the use of a virtue-oriented perspective on policy.

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