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Studying social work: neoliberalism, institutional ethnography and a program of undergraduate social work education

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(Thesis) M.A.
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Starting from the observation that social work students and faculty conceive of social work as an area of thought and activity separate from its practice, this thesis explores the historical and current relationship between social work education and (neo)liberal governance. Drawing on the theoretical developments of Rose (1996a; 1996b) and Fraser (1989), qualitative interviews with students and faculty at a social work program in British Columbia and analyses of program-related texts, I argue that social work education methods fail to interrogate the professional power of social workers associated with credentials, policy and agency mandates. Ultimately, social work education preserves the definition of social work as an activity of social justice without successfully protesting the neoliberal trend toward elimination and reduction of state social welfare provisions current in Canadian social services.
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