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‘WELFARE WORDS’ AND SOCIAL WORK
Why is it important for social workers and social work educators to think more critically about the words used in practice? This was the question I posed in my keynote paper given at the EASSW conference in Paris in June. In my new my new book Welfare Words I try to answer this question by looking at a cluster of words and phrases amplifying the ‘state of play’ within the fields of social work and social policy during a period of faltering neoliberalism.
Welfare Words examines how power relations operate through the language and culture, encouraging readers to
- question how welfare words fit within a wider economic and cultural context riven with gross social inequalities.
- disrupt taken-for-granted meanings within mainstream social work and social policy.
- think more deeply, critically and politically about the incessant, often unreflective, usage of specific words and phrases.
The words and phrases explored include: Welfare Dependency; Underclass; Social In/Exclusion; Early Intervention; Resilience; Care; Adoption. Welfare Words draws, therefore, on a range of European theorists to aid readers’ critical engagement.
Concentrating on words such as these and locating them within an economic and social context, may help us to punctuate dominant and taken-for-granted narratives which are central to neoliberalism within and beyond our profession.
I also hope that the ‘Reflection and Talk Boxes’ at the end of each chapter will spark and stimulate critical conversations in both classrooms and workplaces.
Paul Michael Garrett, NUI Galway, Republic of Ireland