governmentality, professionalisation, community development, the state
This paper historicises the recent and ongoing professionalisation of community development in the Republic of Ireland. The term professionalisation refers both to the designation and accreditation of a distinctive community work occupation and a wider set of processes that effect more strategic approaches to the planning, delivery and evaluation of community organisations. The paper reviews some tensions associated with professionalisation; tensions that closely relate to community work's reputation as a “bottom-up” or “participatory” strategy. It also interrogates community development's place as a strategy of government in contemporary Ireland. In so doing it reconsiders the assumed separateness and distinctiveness of the state and community sectors, arguing that the state has been centrally implicated in calling the community sector into being. In their turn community development organisations have shaped and mediated policy delivery on the ground. It is these processes of hybridisation, co-operation, antagonism and struggle that have given professionalisation its momentum.