Journal Article

Irony and Social Work: In Search of the Happy Sisyphus

Rudi Roose, Griet Roets and Maria Bouverne-De Bie

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 42, issue 8, pages 1592-1607
Published in print December 2012 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online November 2011 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcr163
Irony and Social Work: In Search of the Happy Sisyphus

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The logic of managerialism is seen as a rationale for the limited scope for discretion of social workers and also complicates the recognition of the inherently ambiguous nature of social work. In this article, various strategies in dealing with managerialism and ambiguity are identified: social work can either attempt to escape from ambiguity or embrace (the discussion on) ambiguity as an opportunity. It is stated that, although social work can resist a managerial logic, it might also attempt to escape ambiguity all the same. We argue that embracing ambiguity implies an ironical perspective in social work. This refers to an approach in social work that is open and undetermined by its very essence, as it enables social workers to remain sensitive to the complexity of their work and to stay engaged with the public debate about the social and political meaning of their work and its flaws, while simultaneously searching for new, undoubtedly flawed, answers.

Keywords: Ambiguity; irony; managerialism; professional practice

Journal Article.  6345 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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