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Changes in the social work profession as responses to institutional multiplicity

Anna Olejasz Lyneborg (Department of Sociology, Environmental and Business Economics, University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, Denmark)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 6 October 2020

Issue publication date: 23 June 2021

278

Abstract

Purpose

Adopting the perspective of “institutional work” within neoinstitutionalism and “organizational professionalism” from the sociology of professions, this article contributes to current theoretical discussions on agency in settings of institutional multiplicity.

Design/methodology/approach

This article investigates how social workers in Danish child protection services respond to the implementation of technologies of government targeted at shaping the conduct of conduct to achieve certain results. The article draws on a qualitative case study in a child protection agency and centers on the use of assessment committees as a case of technologies of government.

Findings

The article identifies divergent ways that social workers manage and make sense of contradiction, e.g. by means of detachment of accountability, expansion of practice and internalization of logics in professionalism. Thus, the article sheds light on how social workers cope with discrepant requirements fostered by technologies of government.

Originality/value

As research has focused on the potential constraining effects of technologies of government and discrepancy of logics, limited attention has been given to how the potential discrepancy is nevertheless reconciled, negotiated and handled in the everyday run-of-the-mill practice. Adopting the perspective of “institutional work” within neoinstitutionalism and “organizational professionalism” from the sociology of professions, this article contributes to current theoretical discussions on agency in settings of institutional multiplicity. Additionally, the article sheds light on how social workers manage and make sense of discrepant requirements fostered by technologies of government, reflecting empirical examples of a profession in transition.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank the professionals from the child protection agency for their contribution to this study.

Citation

Lyneborg, A.O. (2021), "Changes in the social work profession as responses to institutional multiplicity", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 41 No. 7/8, pp. 894-908. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-10-2019-0198

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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