From the Guest Editor
Populism has been an important topic in recent symposiums of a growing network of social work practitioners and academics that I am involved in called Building Networks and Frameworks for Global Social Work. The question as how to address the negative consequences of populism through education, research and practice demands attention and will be continue to be explored at our next symposium in Kochi, India. However you can read papers from past network symposiums in this journal edition.
Social workers across most western countries face new forces of conservativism. Neoliberalism with its emphasis on effi ciency and eff ectiveness is surpassed by populist belief in simplistic solutions to complex global social problems. Populist leadership displays very little respect for economic justifications, scientific arguments, or human rights. It involves a way of thinking that legitimates the unpopular and in extreme cases a hatred of the other as an OK response to any perceived threat to one’s privilege position or lifestyle. In this sense, populism has also rekindled east west and north south tensions.
Forced migration to Europe is a key focus for the expression of populist sentiment. Middle Eastern refugees in Europe are the scapegoats, even in the most progressive of European welfare states. The media tends to promote an image of people seeking asylum as burdens on the economy or security threats to society, fueling concerns as to new forms of sectarianism and radicalization. Yet social science research provides extensive evidence that such images are not based on evidence and that immigration contributes to the economic, social and cultural capital and development of recipient countries.
Therefore, the question for social workers is how to respond critically to growing populist beliefs refl ected in society, social policy and welfare delivery. Solutions lie in the sharing and application of theories that increase our awareness of populism, the adoption of practice strategies promoting analytical practice, the application of evidenced based interventions and the importance of promoting global mindedness. This edition of Social Dialogue provides inspiring examples of how to go about this.