Effects of Neoliberalism on Social Work Practice in the United States: A Scoping Review

Jessica E Toft, Elizabeth B Lightfoot, Molly A Calhoun, Mimi Choy-Brown, Joseph R Merighi, Lynette M Renner, Ruth G Soffer-Elnekave, Jessica T Mendel, Scott E Marsalis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Neoliberalism, as an ideology and policy model that favors free market logic, operates across multiple levels of social work practice. Although there is growing interest in the topic, there is a lack of knowledge about the nature of this scholarship. The purpose of this scoping review was to provide a synthesis and summary of the extent, variety, and characteristics of the peer-reviewed literature on the effects of neoliberalism on social work practice in the United States. A total of 132 articles were examined according to the requirements of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analyses extension for scoping reviews (or PRISMA-ScR). Findings suggest that research interest on neoliberalism and social services across disciplines has increased over the last four decades. Social work scholars and journals published at similar rates as non–social work scholars with notable exceptions of policy design and service users. However, there is a lack of research across the literature on the effects of neoliberalism on the supervisor level and the effects of neoliberalism on diverse populations and on key social work services, such as substance use treatment, health services, schools, corrections, and mental health services. Further research is needed in these areas to advance our understanding of the impact of neoliberalism on social work practice.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-110
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Work Research
Volume47
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 National Association of Social Workers.

Keywords

  • managerialism
  • market logic
  • multilevel governance framework
  • neoliberalism
  • social work practice

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