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Making connections

Drawing on a range of theorists and competing perspectives, this substantially updated and expanded second edition places social theory at the heart of social work pedagogy.

This book imaginatively explores ways in which practitioners and social work educators might develop more critical and radical ways of theorising and working. It is an invaluable resource for students and contains features, such as Reflection and Talk Boxes, to encourage classroom and workplace discussions.

This new edition includes:

· An extensive additional chapter on Foucault

· Reworked and expanded versions of the chapters featured in the highly-praised first edition

· Revised Reflection and Talk Boxes

· New and updated references to stimulate further reading and research

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Historical and contemporary responses to Irish children and families

Dominant social work and social care discourses on ‘race’ and ethnicity often fail to incorporate an Irish dimension. This book challenges this omission and provides new insights into how social work has engaged with Irish children and their families, historically and to the present day. The book provides the first detailed exploration social work with Irish children and families in Britain; examines archival materials to illuminate historical patterns of engagement; provides an account of how social services departments in England and Wales are currently responding to the needs of Irish children and families; incorporates the views of Irish social workers and acts as a timely intervention in the debate on social work’s ‘modernisation’ agenda. The book will be valuable to social workers, social work educators and students. Its key themes will also fascinate those interested in ‘race’ and ethnicity in Britain in the early 21st century.

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Recent years have witnessed a number of 'child protection' scandals where children, often from the poorest and most marginalised communities, have been on the receiving end of violence, abuse and social harm. In this short form book, part of the Critical and Radical Debates in Social Work series, Paul Michael Garrett looks at the impact of marketisation of social work services in both Ireland and England. He argues that marketisation has had a negative impact on policy regimes, working conditions, social work practices and on the services for vulnerable children and young people. Leading researchers from across the globe contribute to the debate and provide additional evidence from a range of policy regimes that catalogue the negative impact neoliberalism has had on children's services.

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In 2010 it became apparent that no reliable data were available on the deaths of children in contact with social workers in the Republic of Ireland. As a result of this lacuna, in 2011–12, the Independent Child Death Review Group (ICDRG) and the National Review Panel (NRP) published official reports tabulating and partly describing these deaths. A close reading of the reports indicates that practitioner involvement is frequently enmeshed in factors associated with neoliberal imperatives connected to unfilled vacancies, related staffing problems and the rationing and curtailment of services. Following the appearance of the reports, an emerging ‘change agenda’, partly influenced by New Labour in the UK, has sought to chart a way forward. Nevertheless, given that the state remains committed to a more embracing programme of intensive neoliberalisation, efforts seeking ‘reform’ are likely to fail.

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It has been categorically asserted that Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy, dwelling on accepting responsibility for the ‘Other’, can be used to bolster the theorisation of ‘critical social work’. Furthermore, a number of social work academics maintain that his complex contributions create a new framework for working across ‘differences’. In contrast, this article will challenge these assertions, shedding light on an array of deeply problematic aspects of Levinas’s philosophy and politics. These have so far been omitted in the way he has been presented to a social work readership. Particular attention will be paid to Levinas’s self-proclaimed Euro-centrism and racist condescension toward those beyond Europe. The discussion will then turn to explore his ethnic nationalism which functions to conceptually misrecognise, disrespect and discursively delete Palestinians.

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Marxism is frequently regarded in a disdainful and dismissive way in social work education. However, often drawing on Marx’s own words, this article argues that many of his focal ideas have continuing resonance for contemporary social work. Three key themes are briefly examined: Marx’s analysis of labour and working lives in a capitalist society; neoliberalism and the voraciousness of capital; and the role of the state and dominating ideology. Finally, the discussion will turn from theory to praxis, illustrating how practitioners and educators within the field of social work might endeavour not only to ‘interpret’ the world, but also to ‘change’ it.

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Noting current postcolonial critiques and endeavours to ‘decolonise the university’ and its various disciplines, the article points to the importance of the work of Frantz Fanon and especially his Studies in a dying colonialism and The wretched of the earth. The focus is on Fanon’s interrogation of the use of the veil in Algeria and how he perceived that, subject to ongoing revolutionary turbulence, family relations were being progressively transformed. Moreover, it is suggested that his views on violence warrant further exploration than is ordinarily provided in mainstream and conventional accounts of his work. While pessimistic, Fanon’s concerns about the evolution of postcolonial societies were also timely and prescient.

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The article stresses the continuing significance of keyword-anchored theorising in critical social work. Paying particular attention to England and Wales, the focus is on care as a keyword. Care is central within a range of discourses impinging on social work and social policy in connection with the evolution of community care, the long-term care of the increasing proportions of older people, the treatment of children and young people in the public care system, and debates about unpaid carers. While not claiming to be exhaustive, the article maintains that dwelling on care, as a keyword, can illuminate how, at least, three connected dimensions are significant: care and neoliberal globalism; care and neoliberal labour processes; and care, commodification and corruption.

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Drawing on Raymond Williams’ approach, the article examines ‘welfare dependency’ as one of the most pernicious ‘keywords’ in neoliberal discourse and encourages those located within the field of social work to be sceptical about its uncritical usage. Bolstered by conservative scholarship, the forging of a new ‘common sense’ on welfare may have contributed to the harsh public perceptions referred to in a significant British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey. Problematising the widespread usage of ‘welfare dependency’, the article provides a critical resource for social work educators, practitioners, students and users of services.

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Most theoretical perspectives derived from sociology and social theory tend to argue that modernity – itself a contested term – has not yet been exhausted. ‘What is the nature of the modernity which we inhabit?’ is a key question preoccupying many theorists, giving rise to a plethora of competing views on what it is to be ‘modern’ and on how moderns think, feel and act (Garrett, 2008). Deliberating on these matters is inescapably political: sociologists and social theorists should not be perceived as providing ‘scientific’ or ‘objective’ accounts of how we are evolving because they all, more or less explicitly, owe allegiances to particular political projects intent on remaking the world in particular ways. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is Giddens, who appeared to provide a sociological ‘road map’ for the politics of New Labour. With his revealingly titled Beyond Left and Right, he furnished a ‘book full of sneers at social democracy and the welfare state’ and was to ‘become the ‘theoretician of the [former] British Prime Minister [Blair] and his New Labour regime, giving an intellectual gloss to a party that had lost – or rather severed – any connection to “first wave” social democracy’ (Therborn, 2007, p 100).

It was postmodernists who ‘stimulated an awareness of and a debate about modernity’, and this chapter will begin by briefly looking at their contribution (Therborn, 2011, p 55). After briefly examining the derivation and definition of ‘modernity’, the focus will be on postcolonial theory. Important here is the failure of many theorists to locate modernity in the context of European expansion and the domination of subjugated populations (Connell, 2007; De Sousa Santos, 2012).

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