Policy Work and the Ethics of Obedience and Resistance

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter, I will explore core tensions for social workers underlying their roles as policy implementers in welfare agencies, and consider the ethical questions this tension raises in implementation of or resistance to policies with which they don't agree. I will look at two ethical hunches that seem to swirl-around in this area. First is the idea that professionals — like all other public servants — must follow policies and procedures because they should respect the legitimacy of government policy. The second intuition is that professionals should follow their own commitments, act autonomously and disregard policies with which they disagree. Both intuitions have something important to say, but neither can provide a satisfactory account. The answer seems to lie in the relationship between the two in an area where one is often faced with choosing the least worst option —an area in which ideals can feel challenging, energising and distressing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Work and the Making of Social Policy
EditorsKlammer, Ute, Leiber Simone, Leitner Sigrid
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherPolicy Press
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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