`Care' has been the focus of much sociological and policy related research in the last decade. However, a review of this research literature reveals that the concept of `care' is not uniformly defined, nor is its epistemological status clear. This paper explores the problematic nature of the concept of care in sociological research. In the first section, concepts of care characteristic of 1980s research are deconstructed and compared. This demonstrates their variable and partial character. The second section contrasts the ways in which feminist writers Hilary Graham (1991) and Clare Ungerson (1990) have recently begun to recon- ceptualise care. It is argued that these authors are working along quite different conceptual paths, and that neither reconceptualisation transcends the problem of the partiality of preceding concepts of care. In section three, a unified concept of care is introduced and the question of the theoretical status of the category `care' is addressed.