Edinburgh Research Explorer

Social Suffering: Changing organisational culture through critical reflection - Insights from Bourdieu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related Edinburgh Organisations

Open Access permissions



  • Download as Adobe PDF

    Rights statement: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in the British Journal of Social Work following peer review. The version of record for Mark Smith, Viviene E. Cree, Rhoda MacRae, Douglas Sharp, Elaine Wallace, and Susan O’Halloran; Social Suffering: Changing Organisational Culture in Children and Families Social Work through Critical Reflection Groups—Insights from Bourdieu Br. J. Soc. Work 2016 is available online at: 10.1093/bjsw/bcw087

    Accepted author manuscript, 824 KB, PDF document

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-988
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number4
Early online date10 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


Child protection systems across the English-speaking world have been subject to critique in recent years, identified as overly procedural and compliance-based, within which relationships between social workers and clients are characterised by mutual suspicion and animosity. This article draws on findings from a knowledge exchange project in which a university social work department worked with two local authorities with the aim of bringing about culture change in children and families’ social work. The focus is on what the social workers said about their work and organisations in the course of their participation in critical reflection groups on the state of contemporary child protection systems. The experiences of practitioners are considered using insights drawn from Pierre Bourdieu, and especially Bourdieu’s notion of social suffering, which suggests that workers may feel compromised in fulfilling the moral and emotional dimensions of the job as a result of the demands of a neoliberal state. The article concludes that critical reflection may provide some limited possibilities to destabilise dominant practice orthodoxies and cultures and in so doing, encourage culture change in organisations.

    Research areas

  • Bourdieu, child protection, social suffering, knowledge exchange, critical reflection, organisational culture

Download statistics

No data available

ID: 26456538