Market, Management and Profession. Social Business in the Polder.

Willem Blok

Abstract

In a recent policy document of the organized employers in the care and welfare sector in The Netherlands (the MO Group), directors and board members of care and welfare institutions present themselves as "social entrepreneurs", managing their institutions as look-a like commercial companies. They are hardly criticized and there is not any countervailing power of significance. The workers are focusing on their own specialized professional fields and divided as a whole. Many government officials are in favour or do not bother. The relatively small number of intellectual workers in Dutch care and welfare are fragmented and pragmatic. From a democratic point of view this is a worrying situation. From a professional point of view the purpose and functions of professional care and welfare work are at stake. The penetration of market mechanisms and the take-over by commercially orientated managers result from unquestioned adaptation of Anglo-Saxon policy in The Netherlands in the 1990's, following the crisis of the Welfare State in the late 1980's. The polder country is now confronted fully with the pressure and negative effects of unbalanced powers in the institutions, i.e. Managerialism. After years of silence, the two principal authentic critics of Dutch care and welfare, Harry Kunneman and Andries Baart, are no longer voices crying in the wilderness, but are getting a response from a growing number of worried workers and intellectuals. Kunneman and Baart warn against the restriction of professional space and the loss of normative values and standards in the profession. They are right. It is high time to make room for criticism and to start a debate about the future of the social professions in The Netherlands, better: in Europe. Research, discussion and action have to prove how worrying the everyday situation of professional workers is, what goals have to be set and what strategy to be chosen.

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