Sanford Schram, Social Work and Social Research: “The End of Social Work: Neoliberalizing Social Policy Implementation”

Posted August 23rd, 2012 at 2:25 pm.

in Critical Policy Studies, 6 (2), Taylor and Francis, August 2012.

Over the last few decades, the human services have been transformed, not just in the United States, but also in other countries where pressure grows to emulate the United States in a globalizing world. Neoliberal organizational reforms, like devolution, privatization and performance management, have been joined with paternalist policy tools, like sanctions, or financial penalties for noncompliant clients, to create a flexible but disciplinary approach to managing the populations being served. Neoliberal paternalism represents a society-wide movement to marketize the operations of social service organizations more generally, so that they inculcate in clients a market compliant orientation aimed at making them less dependent on the shrinking human services and more willing to accept the positions allotted to them on the bottom of the socio-economic order. This analysis compares welfare-to-work in Florida and drug treatment in Delaware. We find numerous parallels, including most especially: (1) deskilling in staffing patterns associated with relying on former clients as caseworkers; (2) marketizing of administrative operations stemming from the institution of neoliberal organizational reforms; and (3) disciplining of clients via paternalist policy tools. By examining two very different states and two very different areas of service provision, we suggest the broad impact of neoliberal paternalism in transforming the human services today.

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