‘Depoliticising’ social work

Kenneth McLaughlin

in Social work, politics and society

Published by Policy Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9781847420459
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447303572 | DOI:
‘Depoliticising’ social work

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This chapter discusses the depoliticisation of social work in the United Kingdom. It challenges the notion among many of the proponents of anti-racism and anti-oppression that there has been a sustained backlash against their project. It argues that what were seen at the time as radical, progressive movements were in fact the outcome of political defeat, and in the intervening years they have become institutionalised in ways that are problematic. Anti-racist/anti-oppressive social workers, rather than being an empowering force combating inequality, on the contrary may find themselves at the forefront of enforcing a new moral code of behaviour on the public, themselves and their clientele. This chapter focuses on three main areas: first, that anti-oppressive practice was ideologically driven and was itself oppressive; second, that it emphasised ‘trivial’ issues of language and terminology; and third, that it was a top-down divisive approach that was detrimental to the struggle against racism. Finally, the chapter discusses the role of social work in immigration and asylum.

Keywords: United Kingdom; social work; depoliticisation; anti-racism; anti-oppression; anti-oppressive practice; immigration; asylum

Chapter.  7450 words. 

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