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About this book

Be proud to be a lazy radical! This textbook makes the case for a radical approach to social work that can be embraced by everyone. It's an approach based on real empathy and an understanding of oppression, of managerialism, of the moral heart of social work, of humanism and of the effects of neoliberal hegemony. Jane Fenton provides a model of radical practice for students and social workers who are committed to ‘doing the right thing’, and who want to develop their own framework for practice.

This book will appeal to students who are activists, but want to frame their individual-level practice in a meaningful way, and to those who are non-activist and non-political but simply want to be good social workers. It will give a political and moral understanding of social work practice and lead to confident, value-based and enjoyable social work.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
Welcome to Social work for lazy radicals: relationship building, critical thinking and courage in practice. It is very good indeed that the word ‘lazy’ in the title did not stop you from wanting to read this book, although you may be intrigued by the concept of lazy radical social work practice. I know that social workers, as a group, are not known for their laziness – quite the opposite in fact. Demanding caseloads, difficult and stressful work and often working beyond the call of duty are elements of a more accurate appraisal of social work practice. What exactly is meant by lazy radical practice, then? This chapter will answer that question and by then end of it, you will understand exactly how reading this book is going to help you attain, maintain or develop confident, value-based and courageous practice.
Jane Fenton

2. Dependence, Independence and Values

Abstract
Bauman raises a fundamental tension here, between social work’s ethos and purpose, and the current neoliberal political context. It is worth, at this point, looking at this issue in more detail, especially in terms of the unquestioned acceptance of the neoliberal underpinning assumption that independence is good and, therefore, dependence bad.
Jane Fenton

3. Bureaucracy, Regulation and Professionalism

Abstract
This chapter begins with an exploration of what the problem actually is with bureaucracy and procedure. Why is it anathema to lazy radical practice? Is it really a problem? Does it not keep social workers safe from blame because they can demonstrate they have done what they are meant to do? Social workers do not want to be sacked when things go wrong after all. The chapter will then look at important examples of the consequences of this type of approach and will draw on learning from some important thinkers whose work can be applied to this problem in social work. Finally, the spotlight will focus on contemporary social work, what might be happening and why it is so difficult to change.
Jane Fenton

4. Lazy Radical Social Work Step 1: Relationship Building, Trust and Emotional Engagement

Abstract
We saw in the last chapter how this can have the effect of distancing social work from its original ethical impulse and distancing social workers from feeling emotionally engaged with the people they are working with. This can make it easy for practitioners to unintentionally collude with oppressive and unfair procedures, processes and decisions.
Jane Fenton

5. Lazy Radical Practice Step 2: Knowledge and Critical Thinking

Abstract
This chapter will explore how the second step to resisting managerial, technical-rational practice involves knowledge, understanding and critical analysis; a type of thinking-practice that is the opposite of the dangerous, ‘dulling’ and unthinking practice that can be understood by reference to Bauman and Arendt. Do you remember in Chapter 3, Arendt was quoted as saying that Eichmann’s inability to speak in any meaningful or original way, and his reliance on clichés and jargon was ‘closely connected to an inability to think’.
Jane Fenton

6. Lazy Radical Social Work Step 3: Moral Courage

Abstract
This chapter will attempt to explore and address Barsky’s questions and to shed some light on what is, in essence, a call for moral courage within social work which simultaneously recognises the necessity and difficulty of enacting that particular virtue.
Jane Fenton

7. Doing Lazy Radical Social Work: Getting Beyond the Individual

Abstract
This chapter will begin with a thinking exercise based on a real assignment case-study. It will then explore how students, who have struggled with thinking conceptually about poverty, inequality, neoliberalism and other socio-political influences, tend to approach and interpret the scenario. The chapter will then deconstruct how a lazy radical approach might look.
Jane Fenton

8. Conclusion

Abstract
Thanks and well done for getting this far in the book! This final chapter will start with re-visiting some of the assumptions underpinning the book and some of the reasons why lazy radical social work is not only desirable, but essential in the contemporary social work context. Next the book will give an overview of each chapter to remind the reader, in a succinct way, how the ideas have unfolded.
Jane Fenton
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