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Title: Norm criticism : a method for social justice in career guidance
Other Titles: Career guidance for emancipation : reclaiming justice for the multitude
Authors: Wikstrand, Frida
Keywords: Social justice -- Vocational guidance
Vocational guidance -- Philosophy
Career development
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Routledge
Citation: Wikstrand, F. (2019). Norm criticism : a method for social justice in career guidance. In T. Hooley, R. G. Sultana & R. Thomsen (Eds.), Career guidance for emancipation : reclaiming justice for the multitude (pp. 216-231). London: Routledge.
Abstract: Neoliberalism is described as a discourse that forms what we take for granted in our society, for example, the free market and entrepreneurial rationalities (Flew, 2014). In Sweden the idea of the ‘liberating free market’ influenced policy to such an extent that market principles have been applied to the school system (Lundahl, 2015). Today, young people are not only seen as students but also as customers. At the same time, the labour market has become increasingly more competitive and individualised (Garsten & Jacobsson, 2004; Watts, 1996). As a young person, you see yourself within a market with endless opportunities and a responsibility to make free and rational choices. It seems that everything is possible, and that every individual is responsible for their own future and happiness. Here, happiness can be viewed as the result of making the right choices in life (Ahmed, 2010). On the other hand, failure becomes a stigma on your personality—proof that you made the wrong decision or just did not have the right will (Ahmed, 2014). In today’s world, we can see that deciding one’s career is a form of emotional labour where much is at stake. You have to find your path, and you have to choose. We constantly see numbers and statistics showing that young people— and adults—are making stereotypical choices regarding education, vocation and labour. The labour market is divided by gender, as women and men are found in different occupations and positions (SOU, 2015; Bimrose, 2008). The labour market is also stratified by social background (Gillberg, 2010). Children from families with experience of higher education are more likely to aspire to careers that require a university degree (Ambjörnsson, 2004,). It seems that young people choose education based on their horizon of action (Hodkinson & Sparkes, 1997). At the same time, the notion of the free choice of education, work and career is rooted in the western individualised society (Gillberg, 2010; Sandell, 2007). The ability to choose a career and a lifestyle has become a way of showing our identity. However, when we choose the education and occupation that fits our self-image (Ulfsdotter Eriksson & Hedenus, 2014; Giddens, 1991), our free choices often reproduce pre-existing structures in the labour market—for example, with women working in so-called women’s jobs and men in so-called men’s jobs (Gottfredson, 2005). The act of making a (free) choice is seen as liberating. Sennett (2006) describes that one of the keystones in the individualisation of society is that each individual is responsible for their own future by choosing the right path or career. This marketisation of dreams and career choices can be seen as part of neoliberalism, where education, career and even happiness (Ahmed, 2010) are seen as commodities in the market. In a neoliberal society, the commodification of all aspects of life and human interaction is seen as the way to reach the common good for all (Harvey, 2005). Individuals, in part, reinforce these neoliberal ideas by internalising and individualising ideas about education, career management and employability (Garsten & Jacobsson, 2004). These ideas in themselves ignore the social structures of power, such as the distribution of economic capital, gender, social background, race, functionality, sexuality and so on. This chapter draws upon critical feminist and queer theories that challenge assumptions about how we are to live our lives regarding, for example, career, femininity, masculinity or sexuality (see also Chapters 2 and 4). Can career guidance learn something from these theories? How can we understand career guidance and the assumptions and methods it is based on within the neoliberal discourse? The chapter will examine how norm criticism can be a way to bridge the reproduction of norms and conceptions like those mentioned in a career guidance context. It will explore how professionals can identify and challenge their own and others’ normative ideas. It also discusses how the method can be used to challenge educational and vocational choices based on gender and social background. Further, it identifies any unjust institutional practices as well as the unjust distribution of resources and the contexts and discourses that are embedded within career guidance. Drawing on the idea of social justice, this chapter investigates if and how norm criticism can contribute to career guidance work in a way that is socially just and able to critically review and challenge what is taken for granted in the profession. Within the area of career guidance, a long tradition of addressing and working for social justice has been observed (Sultana, 2014). From this perspective, skewed recruitment practices based on gender, social background, race, religion, age, functionality and other related factors must be viewed as a failure because not everyone is given the same opportunities in life. According to Sultana (2014), the idea of social justice can be understood on three levels: micro, meso and macro. On the micro level, this means helping individuals to write their CVs or apply for jobs. This level can be seen as a way of helping individuals to navigate within social structures, rather than altering the structures themselves. The meso level is described as a level where practitioners have the opportunity to work for or with clients to change structures and practices in organisations and institutions, for example, those that influence pedagogical practice or curricula. Finally, on the macro level, career guidance practitioners can work to influence the political sphere. This third way of working with social justice also involves influencing individuals to see new and different alternatives and to try new methods, for example, by suggesting internships or visits to certain workplaces or educational institutions (Sultana, 2014). These are considered ways of opening up new opportunities for individuals and to create more examples of how less privileged students have been helped to aspire for more (Hodkinson & Sparkes, 1997). Plant and Kjærgård (2016) argue that the idea that individuals, through guidance, can reach their full potential puts career guidance practice and practitioners in the position of being activists. In line with this, these activists should work in the client’s best interest and intervene with the system if necessary for the greater good (Sultana, 2014). Fraser (2003) argues that social justice is a balance between the recognition of different groups and the redistribution of resources between social classes (see the chapter by Rice in Career Guidance for Social Justice). Today, a shift away from the economic to the cultural—from economic distribution to the recognition of different groups—is present in our perception of social justice (Fraser, 2003). As neoliberalism, with its market fundamentalism, has become the dominant paradigm, there is a tendency for the politics of recognition, identity politics, to lean towards a cultural view of social justice rather than an economic one (Fraser, 2008). Fraser (2003) argues that social justice has to address both the recognition of different groups and socio-economic redistribution, as they are intimately intertwined; however, a dilemma remains between the two which addresses the question of who is being addressed when we talk of social justice. Is social justice about recognising different groups with fewer privileges or is it about the redistribution of economic capital and status between classes? This leads us to the question of how this could be put into practice.
ISBN: 9781138087439
Appears in Collections:Career guidance for emancipation : reclaiming justice for the multitude

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