Social development is a massive undertaking that has spawned a multitude of organisational forms. It nevertheless remains an ambiguous term and ill-defined area of work, though some social development practitioners have succeeded in making small-scale local differences in particular situations. While largely a tool of the status quo, some believe that social development has transformative potential and provides valuable space to confront inequalities and deprivation. In this article, I argue that in contemporary neoliberal environments social development is being co-opted by Third Way politics and professionalisation processes. As it professionalises through the creation of professional structures and educational systems, it is becoming increasingly like social work, despite arguments that it is as an alternative approach to poverty and social exclusion. In the process, it is losing its transformative, critical edge, and morphing into a neoliberal, social investment approach that absolves government of its responsibility for the welfare of citizens.
International Journal of Social Welfare Vol. 19, Issue 4, p. 463-470