Socialinis darbas

patirtis ir metodai

Social work and power: theoretical background for research


Power and social work are concurrent, because every help (every relation) are always related with power and dependency. A research of phenomenon of power in social work almost hasn't existed in Lithuania till now. The research could be unfolded on three levels: micro – the level of social work intervention, mezzo – the level of organization of social work, and macro – the level of power of social work profession in the society. The paper aims to discuss fundamental concepts and several theoretical approaches for potential theoretical and empirical research of power in social work. M. Webber's classical concept of power; N. Elias' theory of power balance; approaches toward power in theories of games and social exchanges; and systemic-constructivist concept of power are analysed in the paper. Also five forms of social work power, which at the same time are the sources of social work power and the means of exercising the power, are more closely discussed in the paper. These are physical power, economical or instrumental power, authority or relationship power, positional or organizational power, knowledge or definition power. The last one is worth of close analyse, because it can hide, justify, or seek to embed structures of social inequality, injustice, and violations of human rights. And at last from the discussions based on systemic-constructivist perspective in the paper becomes evident that communication about power or power meta-communication is another specific source of power. If the question of power in specific relationship is raised there is no the way back, and nothing can stay as it used to be, because it forces towards a movement and change, which, by the way, can be positive as well as negative. This is one of the reasons, why an analysis of power phenomenon in social work is always relevant and even necessary.


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