The New Politics of Social Work (book review)
The New Politics of Social Work – Edited by Mel Gray & Stephen A Webb ; Palgrave Macmillan (www.palgrave.com); Paperback. £23.99. ISBN 978-0-230-29678-7
Starting with ‘justice as a normative value’, Gray and Webb want to bring about a new level of political awareness and action, laying out here the need for a new vision that will take social work beyond capitalism, neoliberal economics and managerial control and provide the foundations for a new proposal: a “New Social Work Left”. They challenge the inherent unfairness of a capitalist society based on greed and poke at the gap that has opened up in the aftermath of the relatively recent global financial crisis.
Anyone who has only known social work in the last two decades may well find themselves looking anew at what they thought were the foundations of the modern social work profession, only to realise the extent to which right wing politics underpins their theory, practice and values. Some may find it uncomfortable reading, others may disagree.
Broken down into three parts, Part I largely maps out the political terrain of social work and is certainly not a ‘first reader’ in politics.
The four chapters that make up Part II (Critically Reflective Practice, Critical Management, Critical Best Practice and Critical Discourse Analysis) will be of value to students preparing for their first or subsequent practice placement.
Part III expands on the political impact on some key social work issues. However, it is Iain Ferguson’s chapter on Social Workers as Agents of Change that provides what is probably the most lucid and damning account of the effect of two decades of neoliberal managerialism and a profession in crisis. If in doubt, start here.