‘Under heavy manners?’: social work, radicalisation, troubled families and non-linear war

David McKendrick*, Jo Finch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The ‘war on terror’ signalled a new type of warfare—one that accorded with the features of what Surkov argues is non-linear war ( Pomerantsev, 2014). Traditional war that takes place in a particular geographical location, with an identifiable enemy, is no more. Instead, warfare is a more fluid phenomenon. The paper argues that Surkov's concept can be usefully applied to current developments in social work practice in the UK. We trace the origins of key anti-terrorist policy developments in the UK (PREVENT and CHANNEL) from the war on terror and argue that such policies have serious implications for social work. We argue that there is an increasing securitisation approach in addressing modern social problems. We describe these as reflecting conflationary rhetorical logic, notably the linking of Troubled Families programmes with ‘terror’. The paper concludes that social workers need to first recognise tactics at play in the state of non-linear war, second become critically aware of conflationary rhetorical turns in political discourse, third actively resist securitised discourses and lastly reject discriminatory notions of so-called dangerous people and communities. In other words, we should actively re-engage with and promote social work values and social justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-324
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number2
Early online date12 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Non-linear war
  • neo-liberalism
  • terrorism
  • radicalisation
  • social work
  • troubled families


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