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The tyranny of ethics? Political challenges and tensions when applying ethical governance to qualitative social work research

Carey, Malcolm (Taylor & Francis, 2018-11-29)

This paper examines problems which current ethical governance processes generate for qualitative researchers within social work. It draws upon case studies and critical theory to detail the unpredictable and diverse nature of much social work qualitative research. It argues that too often this research is pitted against a narrow institutional focus placed on positivist-orientated empirical research and income generation. Overtly instrumental interpretations of ethics – often determined by realist and bioethical paradigms – can quickly inhibit the methodological dynamism required to meaningfully capture the complex and non-binary issues which social workers accommodate in their work and subsequent research. Arguments that policy-led, institutional and professional cultures have generated a conservative culture of risk-aversion within the neo-liberal university are also considered.


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