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  • Author or Editor: Christine Morley x
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The impacts of global capitalism and neoliberalism on higher education can reduce the social work curriculum to competency-based skills acquisition rather than critically reflective, transformative learning. This encourages the promotion of establishment social work approaches aimed at accepting the status quo, rather than critical forms of social work that critique the dominant social structures and power relations that cause broad social divisions. The marginalisation of critical approaches reshapes social work towards conservative, market-led demands, yet an explicitly critical social work curriculum is pivotal to the claim of social work as an emancipatory project. This article presents original research that discusses the impact of an Australia critical social work programme on students’ development as agents of change. The findings suggest that developing a curriculum based on critical social science, and using critical pedagogical processes, assists students/graduates to work effectively for social justice and promotes their participation in collective social action.

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This article explores possibilities and responsibilities for social work to further a social justice and human rights agenda in a neoliberal context through the prism of ethical practice. We draw on examples from a progressive social work programme that places critical theories at the centre of curricula and links them explicitly with the distinct value and ethical base of the social work profession. We demonstrate how critical reflection facilitates students’ commitment to the values and principles of critical social work, and the ways in which this fosters resistance to the colonisation of social work by neoliberalism. We conclude with some examples taken from our research that illustrate the emancipatory possibilities of critical reflection to enhance ethical practice in critical social work.

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Social work is a contested tradition, torn between the demands of social governance and autonomy. Today, this struggle is reflected in the division between the dominant, neoliberal agenda of service provision and the resistance offered by various critical perspectives employed by disparate groups of practitioners serving diverse communities. Critical social work challenges oppressive conditions and discourses, in addition to addressing their consequences in individuals’ lives. However, very few recent critical theorists informing critical social work have advocated revolution. A challenging exception can be found in the work of Cornelius Castoriadis (1922–97), whose explication of ontological underdetermination and creation evades the pitfalls of both structural determinism and post-structural relativism, enabling an understanding of society as the contested creation of collective imaginaries in action and a politics of radical transformation. On this basis, we argue that Castoriadis’s radical-democratic revisioning of revolutionary praxis can help in reimagining critical social work’s emancipatory potential.

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This article seeks to explicate one form of technical rationality (ie the technological development of robotics) in social work education and practice. As advances in robotics evolve, questions are raised about the role of technicist education in reducing social work practice to a set of tasks that are repeatable, formulaic and linear (ie tasks that robots are capable of performing). We conduct a critical synthesis of the literature to explore how these parallel processes potentially create a seamless transition for social robots to replace the human social work workforce. Our analysis suggests that social workers need to reclaim a broader understanding of social work education and practice if we intend to retain human social work practitioners into the future. We argue that this is vital because critical social work practitioners are more capable than robots of meeting the espoused social justice values of social work.

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This article traces the emergence of a student activist group called the Social Work Action and Advocacy Network for Students at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. The article exhibits three founding members’ experiences of working collectively to achieve emancipatory goals: showcasing achievements; grappling with ethical tensions of working within a group; and demonstrating students’ capacity to re-author the identity of social work in a way that positions activism as central.

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This article traces the emergence of a student activist group called the Social Work Action and Advocacy Network for Students at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. The article exhibits three founding members’ experiences of working collectively to achieve emancipatory goals: showcasing achievements; grappling with ethical tensions of working within a group; and demonstrating students’ capacity to re-author the identity of social work in a way that positions activism as central.

Full Access