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Taking a stand or playing it safe: revisiting the moral conservatism of risk in social work practice


Stanford, SN, Taking a stand or playing it safe: revisiting the moral conservatism of risk in social work practice, European Journal of Social Work, 11, (3) pp. 209-220. ISSN 1369-1457 (2008) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1080/13691450802075063


An emergent critical social work risk literature positions risk as a morally conservative construct that has repressive effects in direct social work practice. In this literature it is argued that how risk is defined and operationalised in social work reflects the political dominance of neo-liberalism as an ethos of government within the context of the social and cultural conditions of the risk society. This narrative is fast becoming a dominant perspective in the social work literature. However, this perspective in effect creates a 'catastrophe story' where there is little room to envisage an alternative social work practice that is able to resist the conservative effects of risk. In addition there is little empirical evidence to support the relevance of this pessimistic view to the embodied aspects of social work interventions. This paper presents initial findings of a study undertaken in Australia that has explored whether risk is necessarily as totalising of our professional identities, and in turn our practices, as is suggested by this literature. The findings indicate that whilst practitioners were interpellated within conservative contexts in their front-line practice, ethical, moral and value standpoints assisted practitioners to resolve the moral dilemmas posed by risk.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:risk; social work; neo-liberalism; morality; identity
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Social work
Research Field:Social work not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Indigenous
Objective Group:Pacific Peoples community services
Objective Field:Pacific Peoples community services not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Stanford, SN (Associate Professor Sonya Stanford)
ID Code:53734
Year Published:2008
Web of Science® Times Cited:25
Deposited By:Sociology and Social Work
Deposited On:2008-12-23
Last Modified:2009-03-25

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