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Cummins, ID
Publisher: Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers
Languages: English
Types: Article
Loic Wacquant is currently Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. He has written extensively on issues related to urban poverty, race and the expansion of the use of imprisonment. Wacquant is heavily influenced by the work of the late Pierre Bourdieu. In particular, Wacquant seeks to use Bourdieu’ theoretical tools of analysis to provide a critique of contemporary neo-liberal social and penal policy. This article considers the potential applications of Wacquant’s scholarship to contemporary social work practice. For the purposes of this analysis, Wacquant’s work is divided into three broad areas: the analysis of neo-liberalism and precarious forms of employment, the development of the penal state and his critical approach to doxa. Bourdieu uses the term doxa to refer to those views or opinions that are taken for granted within any society. They thus create the limits of, or provide a strong framework for, political and policy debates. It is argued that Wacquant’s theorisation provides an explanation of the forces that have led to the concentration of areas of poverty in the midst of relative affluence. These areas – the banlieues in France, housing projects in the USA and estates in England – as well as facing long standing problems of high unemployment, poor housing and lack of social amenities, are stigmatized in public and media discourse. Wacquant’s work can be used to challenge the development of a form of social work that places emphasis on bureaucratic managerialism. In addition, it should encourage social work as a profession to re-engage with criminal justice issues. Finally, the critical approach to doxa provides a model for social work to challenge the limitations of current debates.
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