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From ridicule to institutionalization: anti-oppression, the state and social work

McLaughlin, Kenneth (2005) From ridicule to institutionalization: anti-oppression, the state and social work. Critical social policy, 25 (3). pp. 283-305. ISSN 0261-0183

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Abstract

Anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices are considered essential components of social work education and practice. This paper charts the rise and rationale for these initiatives, detailing the social and political factors that influenced their development and incorporation into the profession. The criticism of such measures from a variety of perspectives is also discussed. Whilst this was at times vitriolic and did affect policy, the claim that it constituted a backlash is contested. Influenced by a Marxist view of the state and Foucauldian insights into both the power of discourse and controlling aspects of the ‘helping professions’, it is argued that what were considered radical measures have now become institutionalized and in the process lost their original meaning. Anti-oppressive social work, rather than being a challenge to the state has allowed the state to reposition itself once again as a benign provider of welfare, and via the anti-oppressive social worker is able to enforce new moral codes of behaviour on the recipients of welfare.

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