For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"It's a Bit Like Being a Robot or Working in a Factory': Does Braverman Help Explain the Experiences of State Social Workers in Britain Since 1971?"

by Carey, Malcolm (2009)


State social work in Britain has experienced radical and sustained reforms which have seen it move from being an aspiring profession to an increasingly marginalized part of a receding state welfare sector. Neo-liberal reform, and in particular the privatization of state social work, has encouraged greater managerial control, increasing regulation, workloads and deskilling for social workers. Drawing from empirical evidence, this article critically assesses the role of the state social worker since their expansion in Britain from 1971. This is achieved by considering the validity of Braverman's (1974) thesis to practitioners' experiences in the context of three (proposed) eras within the relatively brief life span of the social service department. Despite prominent deficiencies, it is argued that Braverman's overall sentiment, and many of the specific nuances of his theory, still offer much in helping us to contextualize the changing nature of state social work, as a labour process held within the increasingly `competitive' state. Finally, some suggested components of a possible reformed labour process theory that accommodate the specific dynamics of state social work are provided.


British Context, Reform, Welfare, Neo-Liberalism, Privatisation, Social Work, Empirical Study



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