6059-23946-1-PB - EMBRACING NEOLIBERALISM A RECONSIDERATION...

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161 ETHNOLOGY vol. 48, no.2, Spring 2009, pp. 161–74. ETHNOLOGY, c/o Department of Anthropology, The University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA 15260 USA Copyright 2010 by The University of Pittsburgh. All rights reserved. EMBRACING NEOLIBERALISM? A RECONSIDERATION OF THE RESTRUCTURING OF A NEW ZEALAND NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION 1 Hal B. Levine Victoria University of Wellington A study of the restructuring of a New Zealand non-governmental welfare agency concerned with the needs of children and their families shows how a prominent local non-governmental organization sought to reverse the detrimental effects that New Zealand’s adoption of neoliberal ideology, policy, and practice has had on the country’s voluntary sector. The research indicates that the attempt at restruc- turing has the potential to align the organization more closely with emerging local developments in neoliberalism and offers an analysis of what happened. The analy- sis presented here supports the view that neoliberalism is fragmentary, uncertain, and variable; a contextual rather than a unitary phenomenon. That the market- oriented ideology constitutes “a thing that acts in the world” paradoxically emerges stronger than before. (New Zealand, neoliberalism, NGOs) A recent article (Levine 2009) considered how a prominent local non- governmental organization, Barnardos New Zealand, tackled the effects of neoliberalism. Barnardos is the country’s leading agency promoting the welfare of children and their families. It is a fully independent offshoot of a British charitable organization (named after its founder, Dr. Thomas Barnardo) that was founded in 1866 to assist poor orphans. When British children were sent to the colonies (Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), Barnardos established branches overseas. Barnardos New Zealand runs a large number of programs, including coun- seling for children and family members, a parent help-line, social workers in schools, a contact service where parents who have been cited for violence or abuse can visit their children under supervision, centers for the treatment of ado- lescent sex offenders, childcare centers, and a home-based childcare program called Kidstart, the brand focused upon here. The Barnardos annual budget is about $40 million. Funding comes from fees for service, public donations, and contracts from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Develop- ment’s Child, Youth, and Family agency (Barnardos New Zealand 2008). In 2006 the Chief Executive Officer announced his intention to restructure the organization by instituting a plan to provide more “integrated services” (Barnardos New Zealand 2006), to join the various programs the organization offers so that its clients’ needs are met in the most efficient, user-friendly manner
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162 ETHNOLOGY possible. 2 In the original analysis of Barnardos’ integrated services, Levine (2009) treated neoliberalism as a hegemonic agenda aimed at dismantling the local welfare state and replacing it with a contract system based on free-market principles that had adverse effects on voluntary organizations. While New
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