Call for papers: Career Guidance and the Struggle for Social Justice in a Neo-Liberal World

Editors: Tristram Hooley, Ronald G. Sultana and Rie Thomsen.

We are inviting proposals for contributions to a new book which will provide a groundbreaking discussion of the role of career guidance in the struggle for social justice. It will seek to be a paradigm shifting contribution to the debate around the future of career guidance, moving the discipline away from its excessive reliance on psychology towards a more critical, sociologically informed and politically committed approach. The volume addresses the contemporary context for career, critiques of the career guidance field, theories and research methodologies and possibilities and practices. It will include diverse contributions from a range of geographical locations and theoretical positions.

We are currently in conversation with Routledge about the possibility of publishing the volume with them. We are hoping to produce the volume in paperback to keep the price low and ensure maximum impact.

Submissions should be made by the end of April 2016 to the editors via an online form

Main themes and objectives

Career guidance has often been accused of encouraging individualism and perpetuating neoliberal agendas. At its most basic career guidance helps individuals to navigate the existing structures and maximize their position within them. Arguably the field’s strong intellectual roots within the discipline of psychology have exacerbated this focus on the individual and shaped the way that both theory and practice have developed.

There is also a counter-narrative that can be employed in discussing career guidance. This narrative emphasises the social context within which careers are conducted, highlights the fact that most career guidance is resourced within the public sector and notes the claims made by those in the field to make a positive contribution to social justice. Conceptually it highlights the role of career guidance in broadening people’s understanding of the possible lives that they can live.

At its inception career guidance was strongly linked with concerns about social justice and social reform. However, as the field became more strongly dominated by the field of psychology its social rationale was marginalised. One challenge to this has been the growing policy interest in career guidance which has been most evident in reports published by major international bodies such as the OECD, World Bank, International Labour Organisation, the European Union and some of its directorates and agencies. This tradition has viewed career guidance as part of the education, employment and social support system and has argued that it serves economic, political and social goals. However, this policy literature is often technocratic and narrowly focused on reforms to the education and career guidance system. It typically avoids engaging with the structural factors that inhibit and constrain individual’s careers and rarely addresses how discrete changes to education provision might link with a wider challenge to neoliberalism. Furthermore, this tradition of writing on policy has been largely disconnected from the mainstream academic literature on career guidance, which has continued to emphasise the individual and to draw largely on psychology.

More recently there has been a growth in interest in the relationship between career guidance and social justice. This growing literature has struggled with defining what is meant by ‘social justice’ and in exploring what this might mean for the field of career guidance. It has also typically been stronger on critique (describing what is wrong and why) than it has been on possibilities (describing a range of alternatives to what is to be done).

There is a need to draw this growing literature together and to produce a volume which helps to define and shape thinking in this area. Such a volume would need to be strongly pluralist and include contributions from a range of countries (global north and south, those countries with strong career guidance traditions and those without) and theoretical positions (e.g. feminist, environmentalist, Marxist, indigenous and post colonial theories, humanists and liberation theologians, among others). It should also include papers that focus on critique and on possibility and those that are theoretically informed as well as those which are empirically based. We are particularly interested in a strong combination of practitioners’ experiences and insights regarding the struggle for social justice at the point of service delivery and theoretical as well as methodological reflections allowing us to unpack the struggle for new understandings of the interplay of career guidance and social justice.

2. A Detailed Synopsis, Including Chapter Summaries

Draft structure

A 100,000-word volume is envisioned. It is anticipated that each section of the book will include:

  • A comprehensive overview of the theme
  • Focused contributions on particular aspects of the theme
  • Case studies and shorter opinion pieces

We ask authors to indicate which of these types of contributions they are considering when they submit abstracts.

Introduction. Written by the editors. This will define social justice and explore the competing traditions of thinking about this issue. It will also articulate the importance of looking at social justice.

Section 1: The contexts for career. This section will address career development in a neoliberal world. It will examine such issues as: precarity, decent work and flexibility; the politics of the workplace e.g. changes in trade union power; technological change; policy responses e.g. austerity, flexicurity; and the changing nature of school to work transitions; how global, national and local contexts shape the relationship between social justice, career and career guidance; the role of migration; and the rise of indigenous and counter-hegemonic ways of knowing, and of being in the world which challenge concepts such as ‘career’ and ‘choice’.

Section 2: Contexts and critiques of career guidance. This section will discuss: whether career guidance offers an appropriate instrument to deliver social justice; how career guidance has addressed (and/or failed to address) social justice across its history; the existing literature on career guidance and social justice; the politics and policies that shape career guidance; linking career guidance to social, political and religious movements.

Section 3: Theories and research methodologies. This section will address the theoretical basis of career guidance’s involvement in social justice as well as the methodological consequences in relation to career guidance research. It will include discussions of a range of theoretical positions such as critical psychology; critical race theories; environmentalism; feminism; humanism; indigenous and post colonial theories; intergenerational equity theories; LGBTQ / queer theory; liberation theology; and Marxism and socialism.

Section 4: Possibilities and practice. This section will address how far practitioners within career guidance can be expected to carry the world on their shoulders. It will ask whether they should do this and if so how can they cope with the responsibilities that it brings. It will also explore models of practice and case studies and proposals for policies and frameworks. Additionally it will look at the role of training, research and development in helping practitioners to manage their engagement with social justice.

Conclusions. These will be written by the editors and will discuss the further implications for policy, theory and practice in the light of the volume.



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