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Neo-liberalism and the (re-)construction of social work in Sweden and the United Kingdom
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Human Work Science.
University of East London.
University of Salford.
2008 (English)In: Dilemmas for Human Services: 12th International research conference Changing Contexts and Dilemmas for the Human services, University of East London, UK, 11th – 12th September 2008, London: University of East London , 2008Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Social work is now an organised occupation on all continents of the world (Barnes and Hugman 2002). Despite sharing a common basis however, the specific organisation and practice of social work is likely to vary between countries. In a general sense, local discourses concerning citizenship and the provision of welfare might contribute to the shaping of national configurations. If the typology offered by Esping-Anderson (1990) is relied upon, social work within the social democratic context of Sweden may well contrast with social work in the United Kingdom, which has evolved within the context of a liberal welfare regime. At the beginning of the twenty-first century however, the idea that nation states can retain their individual difference has been contested: globalisation is said to erode national borders and impact upon economic policies, social life, the construction of social problems and the welfare policies and practices that are pursued (Wilding 1997). One global trend is for neo-liberalism to modify or possibly even replace social democratic and liberal welfare regimes.According to Powell (2001), the implications of the neo-liberal discourse for the welfare state are ‘catastrophic' in that the fundamental commitment to distributive justice and social citizenship has gone. Policy theorists such as Clarke and Newman (1997) argue that neo-liberalism constructs welfare professionals such as social workers as expensive resources, pursuing their own interests and patronising the clients with whom they work. Whilst welfare services and some associated professionals may be required, this discursive framework dictates that these should be limited in number and remit and provided by the private and voluntary sector rather than the state. Importantly, market conditions should apply: the market in welfare would reduce cost and introduce ‘choice' for welfare ‘consumers' (Harris 2003). In consequence, the social work relationship is transformed as clients become ‘service users', ‘stakeholders' or customers in a service transaction. This paper considers the various ways in which neo-liberalism is impacting upon the provision of welfare in Sweden and the UK, but most specifically the way in which social work is currently being constructed and re-constructed. This has the potential to implicate the organisation, management and practice of social work. Commonalities and differences between social work in Sweden and the UK are identified in the light of the contrasting welfare histories, but also the way in which neo-liberalism is embraced and resisted

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: University of East London , 2008.
Research subject
Gender and Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-31393Local ID: 58f7de20-cb7e-11dd-9935-000ea68e967bOAI: diva2:1004627
Dilemmas for Human Services : 11/09/2008 - 12/09/2008
Godkänd; 2008; 20081216 (andbra)Available from: 2016-09-30 Created: 2016-09-30Bibliographically approved

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