Language, politics and values

Marilyn Gregory

in Policy reconsidered

Published by Policy Press

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9781861349132
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447302995 | DOI:
Language, politics and values

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This chapter focuses on a specific kind of politicisation of social policy. It considers the nature of the language, the knowledge, and the values of policy, using the probation service as a sample case to study the values of ‘policy politics’. It links the case of the probation service to the wider developments in crime control policies. Faced with the socioeconomic features of late modernity and the penal crisis since the 1970s, the US and British governments adopted two strategies: an adaptive strategy that focuses on ‘preventive partnership’ and a sovereign state strategy that focuses on ‘punitive segregation’. In this chapter, focus is particularly given to the probation policy language since the 1970s up to the present time and to how language supports particular versions of values and practices. This chapter is not intended as a detailed discourse analysis of policy documents. Rather, it aims to demonstrate how attention to language enables assessment of some of the conceptual matters that underlie policy intent. It also seeks to demonstrate the power of language in the transformation of probation policy and practice, specifically, how changes in policy language became a vehicle for changing the way practitioners operate. This chapter begins with an overview of early social work/probation values. It also shows how this language of values became contested over time as the criminal policy agenda underwent transformations. It also traces how the policy discourse has shifted from ‘advise, assist and befriend’ to ‘manage, control and punish’. It is argued that this form of language or ‘punitive managerialism’ leads to differing forms of practice and consequences for service users. The chapter ends by considering the future of values and the possibility of alternative policy discourse.

Keywords: politicisation; social policy; language; policy; probation; crime control; adaptive strategy; sovereign state strategy; probation policy

Chapter.  6704 words. 

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