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Social work in neoliberal times : accommodation, resistance and disruption


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Wallace, JD 2019 , 'Social work in neoliberal times : accommodation, resistance and disruption', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Drawing on a neo-Gramscian portrayal of hegemony as a contested process, this research explores the impact of neoliberalism on social work in Australia. The study identifies the varied contexts and interpretations of neoliberal hegemony, and outlines some of social work’s economic, social and political responses. According to the study, neoliberal hegemony has hailed social work to a new set of relationships, centred on the ‘primacy of the market’ and economisation of all things. The research identifies that it has been difficult for social work to respond to neoliberal approaches. In part, neoliberal mechanisms of privatisation and marketisation have had, the research suggests, a significant economic and organisational impact on social work, which highlights a new industrial undercurrent intent on maximising workforce flexibility and financial efficiency.
The research offers evidence of the fundamental challenges to social work’s identity, its social position, and its value within neoliberal society. Some aspects of neoliberalism, according to the findings, have been accommodated by social work with little challenge, while other aspects have brought on disgruntlement, or even fundamental resistance and disruption by social workers. While the manufactured ‘consent’ to neoliberal hegemony has significant implications for citizenship and civil society in the Australian context, the study asserts that the ‘thin’ hegemonic nature of neoliberalism makes its ideological domination unstable and prone to disruption. The thesis goes on to identify that elements of social work’s nature, its history and its intellectual debates, not only make it resistant, but also disruptive to neoliberal hegemony, and provide possibilities for social change.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Wallace, JD
Keywords: neoliberalism, social work, Australia, universities
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Copyright 2019 the author

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