Critical and Radical Social Work
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‘Love is tricky to capture at this level’: social care values, performance measurement, and the emergence of ‘ethical capital’

Author: Steph Grohmann1
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  • 1 University of Edinburgh, , UK
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Professional ethics and values in social care have frequently been described as a site of active resistance against the incursion of neoliberal managerialism in social services. More recently, however, this view has been challenged by an emerging discourse that explicitly treats organisational values as measurable capital assets, exemplified in a growing literature around the concept of ‘ethical capital’. Drawing on data from an ethnographic study on ethics and values within the social care sector in the UK, this article argues that, in practice, the notion of treating values as quantifiable and measurable capital is a consequence of the necessity for organisations to capitalise every part of themselves in order to survive in an increasingly competitive funding market. However, instrumentalising professional ethics in the interest of market competition threatens to undermine its critical potential and to make any part of it that resists subsumption under market logic unintelligible within bureaucratic regimes of performance management.

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  • 1 University of Edinburgh, , UK

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