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Democracy at work.: Power and communication in social work
Örebro University, School of Law, Psychology and Social Work.ORCID iD: Durk4n13B
2016 (English)Conference paper, (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

How can social work in social services become an active democratic agent in times of rapid social change? The point of departure in this contribution is that the need of democratic communication is tremendous in modern society and that the possibility to act according to this insight, is more difficult than it ever has been in modern times, because of the challenges of globalisation and migration; the demand for communication is strangled by neoliberalism’s presence in social services through New Public Managment. The question to be answered is how democracy and communication can be realized in this bureaucratic setting, after all. Democracy is not understood as a stable and static state of affairs, but rather as a frail, but vigorous, condition that only exists to the degree that people act democratically. The greater the role that communication, deliberation and reflection play in official activities, the more democratic the society is. In hindsight it becomes obvious that the more diverse and complex society has become, due to globalisation, migration, the crisis of the nation state and the decline of the welfare state, the more conformal and hierarchical the control of the public institutions have become. As one of the public institutions that institutionalize the moral conceptions of how life should be lived, social services have the potential of being a democratic forum that contributes to the strengthening of social equality. Social equality is the prerequisite for gender equality in society and in families, but through the past twenty years the Swedish society has raised increasingly stronger demands for gender equality in cultural minority group families, at the same time as the general welfare system’s capacity to create the necessary tools for developing equality, have been in decline. In this turmoil social problems are to an ever increasing degree percieved of in terms of lack of individuality and reflexivity in minority contexts, leading to compulsory interventions in families under the Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions Act). Research shows that investigations of foreign-born children or children with foreign-born parents lead to compulsory care and 24-hour care outside the home more often than investigations of Swedish-born children with Swedish-born parents. The interaction between the social worker and the client should, ideally spoken, according to the law, be characterized by voluntary consensus. This requires that the participants in the interaction situation find a mutual understanding of the event that has created the interaction situation. They need to find intersubjectivity, but the possibility of achieving intersubjectivity varies, due to the closeness or distance between the lifeworlds and, hence, the moral values of all the participants. In purpose of finding ways to understand how moral complexity can be an active tool in the democratic enterprise of reaching necessary mutual understanding in the social work context described initially, the concept of i) intersubjectivity must be combined with ii) intersectionality for the possibility to recognize the complex power relations involved, and iii) discourse ethics for the possibility to analyzing the communication itself.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 14
Keyword [en]
social work, social change, democracy
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-58615OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-58615DiVA: diva2:1121019
Conference
Social work as a forum for democracy (The 14th TiSSA conference, held at Ghent University in Belgium)
Available from: 2017-07-07 Created: 2017-07-07 Last updated: 2017-07-07

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Citation style
  • apa
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