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Title: Career guidance for social justice in neoliberal times
Other Titles: Handbook of career development : international perspectives
Authors: Sultana, Ronald G.
Keywords: Social justice
Career development
Vocational guidance
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Springer New York LLC
Citation: Sultana, R. G. (2014). Career guidance for social justice in neoliberal times. In G. Arulmani, A. J. Bakshi, F. T. L. Leong, & A. G. Watts (Eds.), Handbook of career development: international perspectives(pp. 317-332). Dordrecht: Springer.
Abstract: This chapter sets out to interrogate the complex relationships between career guidance and social justice. Tensions between different ideological and political orientations towards the field of career guidance are noted. The different but linked levels at which practitioners, scholars, and researchers can engage with social justice agendas are considered. While due importance is given to the micro- and meso-levels, the chapter focuses in particular on the macro-dimension, noting that an honest consideration of what career guidance can achieve needs to take into account the fact that efforts are framed by the structural constraints of the economic and political systems that we live in. The latter, it is argued, are marked by a global neoliberal turn and a commitment, by many governments, to an unbridled form of capitalism that has deepened the divide between the “haves” and “have nots” and made social justice an even more difficult goal to attain. Indeed, career guidance can be conceptualized as a service that reflects, promotes, and facilitates the “status quo,” or one that sets out to “trouble” and challenge it by imagining a world as it could and should be. While it is acknowledged that career guidance is limited in what it can do, it nevertheless is argued that those engaged with the field should adopt a stance in favor of social justice, one that is inspired by a commitment to acting virtuously in relation to others. Next, alternative conceptions of social justice are explored, drawing on the four main Western philosophical traditions that could relate to specific ways of understanding and enacting career guidance. It is then argued that these four different approaches to social justice constitute the template through which we act as moral and ethical beings and how we practice “socially just career guidance.” Whichever approach, or combination of approaches, is chosen serves to heighten critical awareness of the current historical conjuncture, which is an essential task if career guidance is to avoid the risk of becoming entrapped within the master discourse of neoliberalism. Practitioners, policymakers, and scholars are encouraged not merely to see themselves as technicians who deploy competences skillfully but rather to acknowledge the fact that we are inexorably enmeshed in the political sphere where our actions, albeit practiced at micro- and meso-levels of human interaction within institutions, nevertheless inescapably resonate with, and feed into, the large social issues that a consideration of social justice entails. The chapter is concluded by referring to the Greek notion of phronesis, which reminds us that “understanding” carries with it a responsibility to be and the challenge to act in accordance with what we now see to be the best—in terms of the most virtuous—course of action, in accordance with principles that connect with, and promote, the common good. An important research agenda is to document how career guidance practitioners try to implement socially just practices, particularly within the hostile context of neoliberalism.
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