Journal of Human Rights and Social Work

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 121–127 | Cite as

Right-wing Populism and Social Work: Contrasting Ambivalences About Modernity



Right-wing populism has become a major feature of the politics of many Western countries, and poses particular challenges for social work. This paper explores the contradictory relationships of both social work and right-wing populism to Enlightenment Modernity. Each embraces some elements of modernity but retreats from others. This analysis suggests that apparent commonalities—rejection of globalisation, empowerment rhetoric and opposition to neo-liberalism—are more apparent than real. On this basis, the paper argues that attempts by social work either to dialogue with or to accommodate the right-wing populist agenda are both futile and dangerous. Rather, it is important for social work not only to take a strong stand against neo-liberalism, but to also to articulate significant alternatives to the right-wing populist dystopia, and engage in principled activism, based on the values of social justice and human rights, and to work towards the realisation of such alternatives at community level.


Right-wing populism Social work Modernity Neo-liberalism Human rights Dialogue 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Western Sydney UniversityParramattaAustralia

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