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Wednesday, 01 March 2017 - Friday, 31 March 2017

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From Seebohm factory to neoliberal production line? The changing social work labour process

Starts: Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Professor John Harris the changes that have taken place in the social work labour process.


In discussions of social work, emphasis is almost always put on the ‘social’, leaving
to one side that it is also a process of work (or a labour process).

In the period following the implementation of the Seebohm Report (1968), which is
seen by many as the high point of social democratic social work, the local authority
bureaucracies that emerged were referred to derisively as ‘Seebohm factories’ by
many on the left. Local government social work was considered to have become, as
one publication suggested, ‘big business’ as a result of the importation of corporate
management models from the private sector. With the benefit of hindsight, this
analysis seems difficult to justify, given the extensive professional discretion
enjoyed by social workers in this period.

However, from Thatcherism onwards, there has been a steady direction of travel
towards the social work labour process being brought into line with private sector
principles and practice, forged within the wider context of neoliberalism. These
trends can be summed up in three processes: marketisation, responsibilisation and
managerialisation. Here, the focus is on managerialisation, with the identification of
key changes brought about in the social work labour process, such as introducing
a business orientation, turning professionals into managers, changing the
organisation of work and reducing social workers’ discretion.

In order to critique and address the changes that have taken place in the social
work labour process, it is necessary to recognise that social work is work and that
the struggle over the control of the labour process is central to any attempt to
refashion social work.

Professor John Harris is Emeritus Professor at the University of Warwick.

Refreshments will be served at 5pm, with lectures starting at 5.30pm. 

Category: Lectures and Seminars
Date: Wednesday, 15 March 2017 - Wednesday, 15 March 2017
Time: 5pm
Venue : Senate Room

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