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.

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Why is it important?

The text may increase critical thinking and awareness of the impact of neoliberal policy in social work practice.


It is an analysis of the impact of neoliberalism on a social security system based on the narrative perspective of social workers in Poland.

Marcin Boryczko
Uniwersytet Gdanski

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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,
DOI: 10.1080/13691457.2019.1617678.
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