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This article investigates the way in which disadvantaged minority social workers’ professional excellence is encouraged, drawing data from an analysis of primary documents and in-depth semi-structured interviews with 21 Palestinian welfare bureau managers in Israel. It finds that the Jewish voluntary sector is the sole player encouraging Palestinian minority social workers’ excellence, but its encouragement maintains the status quo regime, politicisation and alienation, and pushes towards neoliberalism. Most of the Palestinian welfare bureaus consciously prefer to avoid encouraging social workers’ excellence to avoid confrontation with the central government in the form of the Israeli Welfare Ministry. A small group of welfare bureaus sufficed with indirect encouragement, enlisting non-governmental organisations for the task because of the paucity of resources. A small number of bureaus that granted excellence certificates and a token gift applied three considerations. Excellence awards constituted a method for coping with the challenges facing Palestinian minority social work.
The article discusses the emergency placement of children by the Norwegian Child Welfare Services. Nine mothers were interviewed about their experiences of the transfer of care of their children. Several of the mothers had their children removed due to an emergency decision. The article focuses on one of these stories and analyses the way in which emergency placement can be seen as a form of communication and practice. The purpose of this article is to generate knowledge about how the concept of ‘zero tolerance’ is used to legitimise emergency placements and how this practice might cause more harm than benefits for individual children. The article’s analytical perspective is grounded in the systems theory of Niklas Luhmann.
How and why do civil society actors change their modes of activism and strategies under the condition of shrinking civil society space in authoritarian states? Previous studies have tended to juxtapose participatory activism, associated with broader mobilisation, and transactional activism, based on coalition building and professionalised civil society organisations. Using the illustrative example of the environmental social movement organisation RazDel’niy Sbor (‘Separate Collection’) in Saint Petersburg, we demonstrate how the strategic repertoire of civil society organisations changes from participatory to transactional activism over time. The study takes a dynamic outlook on strategies and explores how transactional activism and professionalisation are built on the previous successful participatory phase. Furthermore, the study expands our understanding of the participatory mode of activism that is interpreted in an innovative and safe way to avoid repression in the authoritarian political context of modern Russia.
This article introduces the concept of dialectic icons: public figures who feature in contentious and polarising political discourse. The inflammatory quality of dialectic icons and their role as highly mediated symbols of conflict creates long-lasting emotional energy among audiences, who cluster in ideological camps as a response. However, these audiences can also actively and directly engage in and shape these discourses, particularly through social media. Examples of the public discourse about quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests illustrate how the controversiality, newsworthiness, interactivity and visibility of dialectic icons ultimately contribute to social polarisation. By focusing on dialectic icons as proxy battlegrounds for public audiences, this article establishes a useful concept for gaining fresh insights into collective meaning- and truth-making processes.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders claimed that their public health policy decisions were ‘following the science’; however, the literature on evidence-based policy problematises the idea that this is a realistic or desirable form of governance. This article examines why leaders make such claims using blame avoidance theory. Based on a qualitative content analysis of two national newspapers in each of Australia, Canada and the UK, we gathered and focused on unique moments when leaders claimed to ‘follow the science’ in the first six months of the pandemic. We applied Hood’s theory to identify the types of blame avoidance strategies used for issues such as mass event cancellation, border closures, face masks, and in-person learning. Politicians most commonly used ‘follow the science’ to deflect blame onto processes and people. When leaders’ claims to ‘follow the science’ confuse the public as to who chooses and who should be held accountable for those decisions, this slogan risks undermining trust in science, scientific advisors, and, at its most extreme, representative government. This article addresses a gap in the literature on blame avoidance and the relationship between scientific evidence and public policy by demonstrating how governments’ claims to ‘follow the science’ mitigated blame by abdicating responsibility, thus risking undermining the use of scientific advice in policymaking.
This study examines the articulation of anti-gender politics in the parliamentary debates centred on two citizens’ initiatives in Finland and Romania. Although different in their endeavours (in Finland, supporting equal marriage rights; in Romania, attempting to legislate pre-emptively against them), these citizens’ initiatives resulted in significant defeats for the wider anti-gender campaigns in these countries. Examining closely the parliamentary debates ensuing these proposals, we evidence how anti-gender politics developed in ways specific to each examined polity and served as a key vehicle for different manners of retrogressive mobilisation, which bypassed left–right ideological cleavages and party loyalty. We scrutinise critically the discursive scenarios that coalesce in anti-gender politics in the two countries, and we map out both the commonalities and differences between the antithetic narrative scenarios, which hinge on the position of the child within a heteronormative nuclear family and the depiction of marriage equality as a harbinger of an impending societal collapse.
A popular explanation for governments’ persistent enthusiasm for evidence-based policymaking (EBPM) is its expected capacity to solve policy conflict. However, research is divided on whether or not EBPM actually has a positive impact on conflict. On the one hand, EBPM is said to introduce a set of principles that helps overcome political differences. Simultaneously, EBPM has been criticised for narrowing the space for democratic debate, fuelling the very conflict it is trying to prevent. This article explores how EBPM structures policy conflict by studying the example of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in policy processes through reconstructive interviews and ethnographic observations. It argues that, although EBPM channels conflict in a way that prompts engagement from stakeholders, it also escalates conflict by misrepresenting the nature of policy processes. As such, the findings suggest that managing process participants’ expectations about what evidence is and can do is key in fostering productive policy conflict.
For-profit companies have begun competing with women’s shelters for ‘clients’ trying to escape violence. Using discourse theory, this study examines how 20 private shelters describe their business. The analysis shows that private shelters describe themselves as: (1) having a broad expertise and target group: (2) being able to tend to the individual needs of any client; and (3) being highly available and flexible. We understand this as an expression of a neoliberal market discourse and as a way to differentiate themselves from women’s shelters. This may put pressure on women’s shelters to provide similar ‘inclusion’, availability and flexibility. Furthermore: (4) private shelters contribute to shaping a desirable neoliberal subject, that is, a self-reliant woman; and (5), by articulating needs as individual and inherently mundane, they lean more towards ‘providing accommodation’ than addressing the particularities of (gendered) violence.
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are still working through health systems worldwide, and further reflections about the nature of health and disease, and about how to design and implement effective public health interventions are much needed. For numerous diseases and conditions, as well as for COVID-19, our knowledge base is rich. We know a lot about the biology of the disease, and we have plenty of statistics that relate health to socio-economic factors. In this paper, we argue that we need to add a third dimension to this knowledge base, namely a thorough description of the lifeworld of health and disease, in terms of the mixed biosocial mechanisms that operate in it. We present the concepts of lifeworld and of mixed mechanisms, and then illustrate how they can be operationalised and measured through mixed methodologies that combine qualitative and quantitative approaches. Finally, we explain the complementarity of our approach with the biological and statistical dimensions of health and disease for the design of public health interventions.