Organisational professionalism and moral courage: contradictory concepts in social work?

Jane Fenton (Lead / Corresponding author)

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This paper considers findings from a larger study that explored value tensions and ethical stress experienced by criminal justice social workers across Scotland (Fenton, 2015). The qualitative data from that study are revisited and comments are analysed in terms of themes indicative of ‘organisational professionalism,’ such as reliance on agency procedures, the importance of the role of managers and the redundancy of a working theoretical and ethical knowledge base (Evetts, 2003). Findings suggest that ‘organisational professionalism’ is insidiously becoming the social work professional practice framework. Dangers of adherence to such a framework are suggested, especially in terms of the difficulty it might cause for social workers to demonstrate ‘moral courage’ (Morley and Macfarlane, 2014, p346) in the face of the shift to neoliberal frames of reference and ubiquitous managerialism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-215
Number of pages17
JournalCritical and Radical Social Work
Issue number2
Early online date9 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • Neoliberalism
  • Social work education
  • Professionalism


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