Social Work and a New Social Order - Challenging Neo-liberalism's Erosion of Solidarity

Walter Lorenz

Abstract

The world in which social work operates today is a very different world from that in which most of us took their social work training, and the changes we are facing are profound. This paper argues that these changes are not merely a regime change in social policy but that they are essentially about a re-ordering of social relationships and attempt to model them on neo-liberal ideas. In view of these pressures it is understandable that social workers often try to ignore those changes and withdraw into a private world of therapeutic relationships in which the methods they trained in are made to be still valid, or they simply go along with new service delivery designs without asking too many questions. Both reactions fail to question what the "social" can still mean in the light of these changes and how social workers can fulfil their mandate to be responsible for the social dimension of public life. Nothing less than a head-on challenge of the basic presuppositions of neo-liberalism (Willke 2003) and their manifold applications to social service delivery systems will thereby suffice.

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