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The emotional politics of social work and child protection$
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Joanne Warner

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781447318422

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447318422.001.0001

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Risk, respectability and the emotional politics of class

Risk, respectability and the emotional politics of class

Chapter:
(p.93) Five Risk, respectability and the emotional politics of class
Source:
The emotional politics of social work and child protection
Author(s):

Joanne Warner

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781447318422.003.0005

The focus of this chapter is the subject position of ‘respectability’ which is counterpoised with the emotion of disgust explored in Chapter 3. The chapter draws on cultural class analysis to explore how social class can be understood as relational and as a process of constant comparison against others. In the same moment that disgust, contempt and shame act as mechanisms to construct an objectified, disgusting ‘them’, a respectable ‘us’ is produced. The chapter argues that the potential for social work to focus its gaze onto any parent and enter any home looms large in the middle class imagination. Two main sources of anxiety for middle class parents are identified. First are apparent cultural shifts concerning parenting identity and what being a parent means, resulting in new uncertainties. Second is the mythological power of the ‘Cleveland affair’, where over 100 children were removed from their homes under circumstances which prompted a Public Inquiry and which received intensive media coverage over a long period in 1987. The chapter analyses the continuing power of politicians to act as tribunes of emotion in generating media attention and articulating anger and fear over the supposed threat posed by social workers to respectable family life.

Keywords:   risk, respectability, social class, middle-class, Cleveland affair, Cleveland Inquiry, parenting, tribunes of emotion, cultural class analysis, family

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