The aim of this chapter is to explore the rise of communitarianism, both as an ideology and a social movement, and assess its impact on social policy. The concept entered policy debates during the 1990s and quickly gained widespread appeal especially, as the above quote suggests, for those on the political right seeking to make communities more receptive to market-based reform. Communitarian ideas have also been taken up by New Labour and translated into the ‘third way’ project to modernise the welfare state. In offering a critique of communitarianism a brief outline of an alternative discourse based upon transformative action will be set out — this perspective will be taken up and developed further in the chapters concerned with community-based practice in Part III. The remaking of community, with a greater emphasis on partnership and collaboration, has since 1997 become central to the reforms and provides a clear moral message for both welfare professionals and service users alike. The impact of policy on practice will be illustrated with reference to altering the balance between protection and prevention in child care (Stepney, 2006a), and more generally in the reconstruction of social work as ‘tough love’ (Jordan, 2001).
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