If we are serious about developing new visions for social work – rethinking how we can work in ways that change the oppressive relationships that structure the lives of people – we need to find strategies that do more than alter the behaviour of individuals. However, social work is not a free-floating activity which we can shape at will.
Ideas are never neutral. As Marx and Engels observed, those who define the dominant ideas control the world:
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. (Marx & Engels, 1964)
The following is a brief historical exploration of how the seductive and insidious ideology of neoliberalism has come not only to dominate the social policy landscape in Aotearoa – New Zealand but also to colonise our common sense and rob us of our political imaginations.