Moral outrage: social workers in the Third Space

Moral outrage: social workers in the Third Space

Published 11th March 2016

Patricia Fronek & Polly Chester 

ABSTRACT: Injustice is at odds with social work's mandate to promote social justice, human rights and ethical responsibility. In nations such as the UK, Australia and the USA, ideologies of the far right exert strong influences on social policy. In this critical commentary, we argue that shifts from welfare states to privatisation, the return of the deserving and undeserving as ‘strivers’ and ‘shrivers’, ‘lifters’ and ‘leaners’, and policies that violate the human rights of refugees and other disenfranchised groups have activated moral outrage within the social work profession. Moral distress, ethical responsibilities and, for some, fears of complicity when unjust policies become practice, suggest that a moral response is required. A new form of online activism in a Third Space has emerged that juxtaposes traditional social work activism in ways that are responsive to social work's moral imperatives, and is a panacea for moral outrage within a global context. Such actions pose ethical complexities and are not without risk. Stéphane Hessel offers a framework to understand how peaceful civil disobedience and radical approaches are legitimate expressions of moral outrage that transcend indifference and despair. We explore the new social work activism emerging in the Third Space drawing from Hessel's philosophies.


Publication Type

Journal Article