Informal carers in the context of late modernity must negotiate two potentially conflicting discourses. One is associated with a post-traditional and increasingly individualized society characterized by ‘pure’ relationships with an emphasis on authenticity and choice. The other is a more traditional discourse found particularly in current health and social policy which relies explicitly on significant input by family carers. This ar ticle analyses the tensions arising from this paradox, specifically for older carers engaged in long-term care relationships. The first, theoretical, section provides an overview of the ‘subjective turn’ associated with modernity together with the heterogeneous ethics of governmentality associated with liberal rule. The second, empirical, section discusses ‘moral narratives’ drawn from carers’ accounts of caregiving. The conclusion highlights the social contexts in which carers make moral choices and identifies the links between policy normativities on the one hand and inequality and resistance on the other.