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Welfare Words

Welfare Words
Critical Social Work & Social Policy

First Edition

October 2017 | 288 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
‘Systematically exposes the neoliberal myths in unequal societies’ - Niels Rosendal Jensen
'A call to arms to challenge inequality and social exclusion.' - Lel Meleyal
‘An impassioned dissection of the highly coded lexicon of so-called welfare reform…get reading, get angry, get ready’. - Gargi Bhattacharyya

Welfare Words analyses the keywords and phrases commonly used by policy-makers, news-outlets and wider society, when referring to social policy, welfare reform and social work in the present-day culture of neoliberal capitalism. Examining how power relations operate through language and culture, it encourages readers to question how welfare words fit within a wider economic and cultural context riven with gross social inequalities; to disrupt taken-for-granted meanings within mainstream social work and social policy, and to think more deeply, critically and politically about the incessant usage of specific words and phrases. Written by an authoritative voice in the field, Paul Michael Garrett makes sense of complex theories which codify everyday experience, giving readers vital tools to better understand and change their social worlds.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The Conceptual Lens
Chapter 3: Welfare Dependency
Chapter 4: Underclass
Chapter 5: Social Exclusion
Chapter 6: Early Intervention
Chapter 7: Resilience
Ch. 8: Care
Ch. 9: Adoption
Chapter 10: Conclusion

What I found most striking about this book was the way Garrett shows the changing meanings of keywords over time and in relation to wider social developments. Many terms now used to maintain a neoliberal agenda and societal status quo, often had more progressive and, often, revolutionary meaning behind them. Such an insight should alert us to the need not to take any term at face value but interrogate it in order to discover what it signifies at any historical juncture and particular social context. Garrett has provided us with a valuable analysis of the language of welfare and of the political uses and misuses of keywords that are ubiquitous within the field of social welfare, social policy, social work and the wider public. I highly recommend it for all levels of study within such disciplines as well as those of politics, sociology, media and cultural studies. It is also required reading for academics and politically engaged members of the public, indeed anyone with an interest in, understanding contemporary society.

Kenneth McLaughlin, Journal of Political Power

This is a significant new work. It highlights the crucial importance of the power of “welfare words” [and] maps the development and use of these terms against a backdrop of welfare retrenchment, increasing inequality and austerity. It provides a clear insight into the way that a neoliberal vocabulary of welfare has played a powerful role in structuring debates in these fields. It is a well written and argued text, which is superbly researched. Essential reading for all those interested in developing a critical social work mode of practice but also those with an interest in critical social policy.

Ian Cummins
Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Salford
The Sociological Review

Rigorous, meticulously researched and edgy, Garrett’s new book seeks to understand the ideology underlying welfare words and by doing so, exposes the power and oppression operating through them. Read this book; it is the antidote to those who say that social work cannot be both a deeply intellectual and social justice-engaged endeavour.

Donna Baines
University of Sydney

Garrett's book is intellectually compelling as well as inspiring in the way it systematically exposes the neoliberal myths in unequal societies. It will inspire the readership to work for social justice in social policy and society.

Niels Rosendal Jensen, European Journal of Social Work

This is an engaging and engaged revisiting of the cultural excavation of ‘key words’ pioneered by Raymond Williams. Garrett presents an impassioned and thorough dissection of some of the most important ‘key words’ of our time, the highly coded lexicon of so-called welfare reform. What you will learn about the histories of containment and struggle sedimented within each term will enrage and energise – get reading, get angry, get ready.

Gargi Bhattacharyya
University of East London

This is a fascinating and rich book, which documents the central place of language in the (re)production of social order and the importance of welfare words in delineating the parameters of our collective imagination.

Tracey Jensen
Critical Social Policy

Paul Michael Garrett’s Welfare Words takes a modern, fresh look at the language of welfare. He calls upon the reader to re-visit the impact of language upon welfare choices and interventions and in doing so makes an accessible and relevant call to arms to challenge inequality and social exclusion. This book will be the go-to text for students of social work and social policy for many years to come.  It is an outstanding text and highly recommended.

Lel Meleyal
University of Sussex

Welfare Words is an ambitious work, one that can be read as a selective history of the recent past, as a demonstration of depth-style analysis, as the intellectual biography of a particular scholar, and as an invitation to dialog on shared matters of concern…the intended audiences for the book are both graduate-level and final year undergraduate students in social work and social policy, and perhaps also those in education, criminology, and health.

Tina Wilson
Journal of Progressive Human Services, 2019

Garrett’s book critically examines the language of welfare to enable consideration of the historical, political and cultural standpoints that underpin welfare discourses. Through employing the phrase “Welfare Words” he invites us to analytically examine (or re-examine) the power and motivations contained within welfare discourses. Garrett provides the reader with an insightful consideration of the role of language in social welfare service provisions. The book succeeds in clearly demonstrating how neoliberal ideology oppresses and blames and, in doing so, it dispels neoliberal discourse –challenging the reader to reframe the language of oppressive practice norms.

Kelly J. Smith, University of Waikato - Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work

Paul Garrett's important new book highlights the power of language when it comes to social welfare. Focusing on some of the most crucial keywords of welfare discourse in the neoliberal era, he plots their politics, illuminating their complicity in enacting disciplinary practices of client subordination, but also how their incompleteness leaves an opening for resistance and revision. His politically engaged linguistic interventions help us think about how to take steps toward less oppressive and more affirmative forms of service provision. This is a must read for social workers and social theorists alike, especially if they are interested in moving beyond the strictures of neoliberalism's oppressive disciplinary regime.

Sanford F. Schram
Hunter College, CUNY

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ISBN: 9781473968974
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