Journal Article

Introducing ‘Deviant’ Social Work: Contextualising the Limits of Radical Social Work whilst Understanding (Fragmented) Resistance within the Social Work Labour Process

Malcolm Carey and Victoria Foster

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 41, issue 3, pages 576-593
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online February 2011 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcq148
Introducing ‘Deviant’ Social Work: Contextualising the Limits of Radical Social Work whilst Understanding (Fragmented) Resistance within the Social Work Labour Process

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This paper draws upon case study research to explore deviant social work. This is defined as small-scale acts of resistance, subterfuge, deception or even sabotage that are typically hidden yet scattered throughout parts of the social work labour process. Taking a wide variety of forms that can include recalcitrant attitudes as well as practices, deviant social work can be seen as being distinct from radical social work, most notably due to its implicit, pragmatic, non-idealistic and individual dispositions and strategies that are not rooted within epistemological, professional or other institutionally defined parameters. In contrast, positive deviant social work seeks as its maxim application and tangible support to vulnerable people above theoretical critique, rhetoric or perpetual reflexivity. Just as significant, because of its covert and disparate expressions, deviant social work also largely evades managerial or policy-led forms of location, surveillance and control. It is concluded that only engagement with an eclectic mix of critical theories is likely to help us locate and understand the many forms of resistance that inevitably emerge within an unpredictable, demanding, highly regulated and under-resourced quasi-professional labour process such as social work.

Keywords: Radical; social work; deviancy; recalcitrance; responsible subversion

Journal Article.  6875 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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