Legitimising social work disability policy practice: pain or praxis?

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    This paper examines the policy practice of a social worker academic with lived experience of disability. The author illustrates her reflections through an exploration of national consultations that contributed to the development of a National Disability Strategy. Policy is presented as a discursive practice built on an intersubjective framework for interpreting disability experience. Social work's unofficial mantra is that we work from private pain to public issues in pursuit of personal liberation and flourishing in civil, inclusive, and just communities. Using Pierre Bourdieu's concepts of capital, fields of power, and habitus this view of social work, expressed through the politics of presence of people living with disability, is problematised as potentially tokenistic and exploitative. Electing to steer away from any processes that approach the politics of the tragic spectaclee (Elliot, 2002), the author concludes that her practice is legitimised through a commitment to mobilise the cultural and knowledge capital built through the habitus of social work policy practice and the symbolic capital of disablement-both of which can be deployed to develop the capacity of colleagues in the disability movement.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)117-132
    Number of pages16
    JournalAustralian Social Work
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


    • Capital
    • Disability
    • Habitus
    • Legitimacy
    • Policy practice
    • Sociological imagination


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