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Practising ethically in unethical times : everyday resistance in social work.

Weinberg, Merlinda and Banks, Sarah (2019) 'Practising ethically in unethical times : everyday resistance in social work.', Ethics and social welfare., 13 (4). pp. 361-376.


This article considers the challenges faced by social workers struggling to act ethically in what we characterise as the ‘unethical climate’ of neoliberalism. We offer a brief account of the current context, including the increasing managerialism and marketisation of welfare services, exacerbated by cuts in welfare provision following the 2008 financial crisis. We discuss the concepts of ‘ethical resistance’ and ‘ethics work’. We illustrate this with three case examples drawn from accounts given by social workers in Canada and England in the context of two research studies. These accounts feature social workers struggling to be ethically good and to do what they consider to be the right actions in difficult circumstances. We interpret their accounts of their actions largely in terms of everyday ethical resistance to organisational pressures of regulation of practice and rationing of resources. We conclude that everyday ethical resistance is not enough to ‘make good’ the unethical climate, but is an important precursor to social and political resistance.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Ethics and social welfare on 17 April 2019 available online:
Date accepted:06 March 2019
Date deposited:19 June 2019
Date of first online publication:17 April 2019
Date first made open access:17 April 2020

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