Changes in the social work profession as responses to institutional multiplicity

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Abstract

Purpose: Adopting the perspective of “institutional work” within neoinstitutionalism and “organizational professionalism” from the sociology of professions, this article contributes to current theoretical discussions on agency in settings of institutional multiplicity. Design/methodology/approach: This article investigates how social workers in Danish child protection services respond to the implementation of technologies of government targeted at shaping the conduct of conduct to achieve certain results. The article draws on a qualitative case study in a child protection agency and centers on the use of assessment committees as a case of technologies of government. Findings: The article identifies divergent ways that social workers manage and make sense of contradiction, e.g. by means of detachment of accountability, expansion of practice and internalization of logics in professionalism. Thus, the article sheds light on how social workers cope with discrepant requirements fostered by technologies of government. Originality/value: As research has focused on the potential constraining effects of technologies of government and discrepancy of logics, limited attention has been given to how the potential discrepancy is nevertheless reconciled, negotiated and handled in the everyday run-of-the-mill practice. Adopting the perspective of “institutional work” within neoinstitutionalism and “organizational professionalism” from the sociology of professions, this article contributes to current theoretical discussions on agency in settings of institutional multiplicity. Additionally, the article sheds light on how social workers manage and make sense of discrepant requirements fostered by technologies of government, reflecting empirical examples of a profession in transition.

Translated title of the contributionForandringer i socialrådgiverprofessioner som svar på institutionel flertydighed
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
ISSN0144-333X
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6. Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Autonomy
  • Bureaucracy
  • Coping strategies
  • Future of work
  • Professions

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