• The neoliberal university, social work and personalised care for older adults

      Carey, Malcolm; University of Chester
      This article critically examines the impact of the neoliberal university upon social work education and practice relating to older people. It appraises market-led pedagogical reforms, including of the training of social workers who go on to work with older adults, such in support of policies including personalisation. Influence is drawn from the work of Nancy Fraser (2019): specifically, her understanding of ‘progressive neoliberalism’, or the improbable fusion of free market ideals with the politics of recognition to create a rejuvenated hegemonic bloc. This theoretical framework is utilized to analyse the prevalence of emancipatory constructs such as empowerment, participation, anti-oppression, equality, choice and independence within acutely underfunded, bureaucratic, and risk-averse fields of social care and social work. While benefiting some older ‘service users’, it is argued that personalisation policy regularly disadvantages or excludes older people within fragmented adult social care sectors. Progressive neoliberalism has helped to promote policies which envisage participative self-care whilst more often excluding or objectifying older adults, especially those with higher level needs.
    • Trapped in discourse? Obstacles to meaningful social work education, research and practice within the neoliberal university

      Carey, Malcolm; University of Chester
      This article appraises the role of the neoliberal university in regulating social work education, research and practice. The dominance of governments and employers in determining social work education is highlighted, alongside the ascendancy of skills-based and vocational training. Moreover, it is proposed that research, associated learning, and practice are now more often moulded around essentialist science-based, behavioural or functionalist paradigms, which fit conveniently with free market, politically conservative and authoritarian agendas. The neoliberal university is increasingly able to rationally prepare social workers to fulfil narrow ideological objectives, which includes priority given to attempts to empower, pathologise, and scientifically manage structurally disadvantaged populations from minority groups. Reductive paradigms, nevertheless, can struggle to cope with social fragmentation and diversity, with social work students often ill prepared for many of the complex challenges which they later face as qualified practitioners. Analysis for the article draws from critical theory, and it is concluded that market-based discourses and related professional paradigms - and the symbolically constituted and hyperreal fantasies which they help to maintain - can prove difficult to escape. Social work continues to face a precarious future within university settings in which free market narratives, associated norms, targets, and labour insecurity prevail.