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Losing the Faith: Public Sector Work and the Erosion of Career Calling

Cohen, Laurie; Duberley, Joanne; Smith, Pete


Laurie Cohen

Joanne Duberley

Pete Smith


This article tells the story of Dave, a welfare rights advisor who worked his way up to be Assistant Director of Social Services in a Midlands local authority. Dave joined the public sector with a sense of calling and a belief that local government could create positive social change. Over the next 25 years, however, Dave’s calling was increasingly challenged as his job and the context in which he worked were transformed. This article focuses on the ways in which Dave navigated the system in an attempt to ‘keep the faith’, before eventually taking early retirement.


Cohen, L., Duberley, J., & Smith, P. (2019). Losing the Faith: Public Sector Work and the Erosion of Career Calling. Work, Employment and Society, 33(2), 326-335.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 26, 2017
Online Publication Date Jan 5, 2018
Publication Date 2019-04
Deposit Date Nov 14, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jan 5, 2018
Journal Work, Employment and Society
Print ISSN 0950-0170
Electronic ISSN 1469-8722
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 2
Pages 326-335
Keywords Calling, Welfare rights, Austerity, Local government, Public sector
Public URL
Publisher URL


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