iassw logoSocial Dialogue #17

Carolyn Noble, PhD

Welcome to Social Dialogue Issue 17

Another exciting edition of social dialogue has now been completed drawing together articles on the rise of populism and its impact on social work. While its impact is only just beginning to be analysed by social workers across the globe, one thing is certain is that its impact will have dire consequences for our profession and its human rights and social justice agenda if the more obvious issues and consequences are not addressed more forcibly now.

This new culture of post truth where lies and half facts can be peddled as true (despite evidence to the contrary!), where truth is manipulated (blatantly now, without fear of rebuke) where political gain and personal and familial power are sought with little pushback then there is much to fear about the sustainability of our democracy, for the ‘rule of law’ and ‘separation of powers’. This is especially concerning when executive decision-makers (e.g. presidents or prime ministers) assume more and more powers outside the democratic process of debate and review. Where the political class use vulnerable people such as refugees, asylum seekers, LGBTQI communities as well as indigenous peoples right to their land, clean and safe water and key global issues such as terrorism and conflict matters in general (e.g. North Korea, Syria and Iran) as many of the reasons to be afraid.

Activists who are raising concerns about abuses of human rights and the increasing level of violence against marginalised group as well as the planet ability to sustain itself in the future are seen as undermining the security of the state and its people and are to be feared and in many cases vilifi ed. Rather than tackle these issues, the political class present this manufactured fear as the very reason we need popular leaders and their agenda of restricting our democratic rights to freedom of association, freedom of the press, protection of whistle-blowers and ‘truth-tellers’ and the right to engage in the advocacy of resistance. We need their protection for our own continued safety and protection of our way of life. For those who see through this manipulation and the vested interests who are peddling this fear argue that George Orwells’ dystopian novel 1984 is fast becoming a reality for many people in the remaining so called democratic countries.

These events, as predicted, raise important issues for social work. A critical social work analysis and practice presents social work with a feasible critique for an urgent response. While more debate is needed this issue of social dialogue is presented as an attempt to bring these issues to the fore. Enjoy!