Promoting activism and critical social work education

Authored by: Christine Morley

The Routledge Handbook of Critical Social Work

Print publication date:  January  2019
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138578432
eBook ISBN: 9781351264402
Adobe ISBN:


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How might social work education promote activism? And why is this a core responsibility for all social work educators? This chapter will explore these questions through a critical synthesis of the literature, arguing that social work education should be explicitly critical in nature if it is to prepare practitioners to meet the universally espoused activist goals of the discipline (see for example Baines, 2011; Macfarlane, 2016; Fenton, 2014). Critical social work is “part of a progressive political project . . . which begins with a rejection of contemporary social arrangements and seeks to establish another more equitable and just state of affairs” (Gray and Webb, 2013: 10 quoting Gray, Stepney and Webb, 2012). Such a transformative project necessitates activism. The chapter shows how neoliberalism has undermined the role of activism in social work but suggests that critical social work education can reinvigorate opportunities for critique and action. The paper presents students’ voices from two research projects, emphasising the components of social work education that had been formative in their development as activist practitioners.

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