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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Social Work Action Network and Paulo Freire's 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed'

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Social Work Action Network brings together social workers, service users, academics and students to combat the twin nasties of privatisation and cuts in public services.(1)

So it was apt on Saturday that SWAN National Conference addressed the challenging issues of 

  1. Race, racism and refugees;
  2. Privatisation of Social Work Education and Practice; and
  3. Crisis in Mental Health(2)

The main message that came home to me via a PowerPoint slide on the Saturday morning was from Brazil's Paulo Freire's ground-breaking 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed'.(3) Freire differentiated between 'false generosity' and 'authentic liberation'. The former can be seen throughout 'apprenticeship' and 'traineeship' schemes that supply big business with cheap labour, but also in much of neo-liberal or 'corporatist' 'welfare reform' agendas led by investment bankers who come from wealthy backgrounds and haven't a clue about what it's really like to, say, live with MS or Chronic Fatigue, etc, and/or to live with a learning difficulty and be poor at the same time. (Eg, Virgin founder Richard Branson may have dyslexia, but he has fewer difficulties than those without inherited wealth.)

'Authentic liberation' can be exampled by user-led organisations such as the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group getting together and becoming self-trained in proving our entitlement to the benefits our oppressors want to strip from us.

Yet the headline to a blog piece I've just discovered via a Yahoo! search could be very well applied to the products of the DWP's sanctions culture: "The 'generosity' of the oppressors is nourished by death, despair and capitalism."(4)


  1. http://socialworkfuture.org/who-we-are
  2. http://socialworkfuture.org/attachments/article/478/conference%20flyer%202016%20(2).pdf
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedagogy_of_the_Oppressed
  4. http://climateandcapitalism.com/2012/03/16/paulo-freire-the-generosity-of-the-oppressors-is-nourished-by-death-despair-and-poverty/

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