Postmodern thinking: where is it taking social work?

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Noble, Carolyn (2004) Postmodern thinking: where is it taking social work? Journal of social work, 4 (3). pp. 289-304. ISSN 1468-0173


Summary: Postmodern discourse in contemporary social work literature has captured a growing audience and is raising a serious challenge for social work theory and practice. While attention is being focused on this new post-activist work the role and function of the welfare state in many western democratic countries is being devalued. At the same time state-based services and resources are being cut, with social workers becoming prime targets for rationalization. Addressing and responding to this postmodern ‘turn’is one of the major challenges that confront social work today: a concern that needs urgent attention if social work is to remain a viable player in the ‘post welfare’debate. Findings: Social work needs to wake up from the enticing, almost mesmerizing effect of postmodern discourse and take another look at the way economic, gender and colonial issues continue to lie at the root of injustice and impoverishment. Focusing on the local and the contextuality of the specific takes attention away from the pervasive power of structural forces. Rather than call for the negation of grand theories, social work needs to realign itself with a more, rather than less, national and global focus. Applications: Postmodern social work argues for the jettisoning of ‘grand’or ‘universal’social change theories on which social work was founded, in favour of the re-appreciation of the local and the everyday contexts of practice as sites for action and resistance. Underlying this development is a neo-conservative ideology that creates great discrepancies between rich and poor and undermines traditional social work theory and practice. Ultimately social work must refocus its attention on exposing global economic inequalities and oppressive gender and ethnicity-based relations across the globe. Social work will survive in its mission if it takes on this challenge in addition to the micro-deconstruction offered by the postmodern discourse. Finding a way forward means combining the personal with the political so that both are integrated into a more relevant social work discourse.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1177/1468017304047747
Official URL
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 220000 Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts-General
Historical > RFCD Classification > 370000 Studies in Human Society
Historical > FOR Classification > 1607 Social Work
Keywords postmodernity, post welfare debate, social work, social work education
Citations in Scopus 31 - View on Scopus
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