Keywords: Italian Social Services; Policies; Probation; Professional Knowledge; Qualitative Analysis.
What is the professional knowledge that social workers use to argument their statements? This question will be explored through the analysis of an episode related to the approval of a draft probation act: the so-called «Mastella act». The paper explores the positions taken by social workers regarding this act and above all tries to typify the kind of knowledge that social workers use to oppose themselves against the proposals of the attorney general Mastella. The controversy about the Mastella draft Act represents a rich field of research because it traces the effects of a general shift from welfare to control in Italian social policies. This phenomenon can be framed through Boltanski and Thévenot (1991) theory, which shows how the same term is often used to represent different concepts. The results will be framed using both general sociological theories and theories about the process of professionalization. At this regard Larson and Freidson theories about the concept of professional project will be explored. The goal is to understand if social workers are able to build a solid professional project when new policies go in the direction of an erosion of the welfare state.