What is it about?
The text contributes to the debate on power relations in social work practice and the impact of neoliberal governmentality on the professional conduct of social workers. The aim was to examine the nature of the relationship between policy shaping social work practice and power relations exercised by social workers in the changing welfare state in Poland. The perspective combining ‘governmentality’ and ‘historical-political sociology’ was engaged to answer questions of why and how in the context of dominant discourses affecting regimes of practice. Qualitative data were generated from in-depth interviews with 30 social workers and family assistants. The analysis was based on engaging theory that enabled knowledge to proliferate and there to be multi-faceted interpretations. Local patterns of neoliberal governmentality were identified: ‘suboptimization’, the role of ‘historical legacies’ taking as an example ‘catholicization’ and pastoral power, and installing ‘homo oeconomicus’ by inculcating self-discipline and personal responsibility. The question of why those forms of governmentality were introduced was also answered in terms of implementing a ‘business model’ in social work, the prevalence of ‘historical legacies’ and the Catholic church in constituting welfare state, and discursive domination of neoliberalism leading to deprofessionalization and submission of social work to market demands.
Photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash
Why is it important?
The text may increase critical thinking and awareness of the impact of neoliberal policy in social work practice.
Read the Original
This page is a summary of: Neoliberal governmentality in social work practice. An example of the Polish social security system, European Journal of Social Work, May 2019, Taylor & Francis,
You can read the full text:
Governmentality w systemie pomocy społecznej. Studium empiryczne technologii władzy w ośrodkach pomocy społecznej
This qualitative data is in Polish. It consists of anonymized in-depth interviews and codes-quotations list and code hierarchy. The data was collected to answer the question of how power relations work in social work practice and the impact of neoliberalism as embedding current governmentality on the professional conduct of social workers. The general idea was to understand and examine the nature of the relationship between policy shaping social work and the practice by the example of power relations exercised by social workers.
The following have contributed to this page