Professionalization and social justice in social work: discourses in conflict

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Professionalization and social justice in social work: discourses in conflict

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Title: Professionalization and social justice in social work: discourses in conflict
Author: Olson, Jeffrey J
Abstract: This dissertation seeks to explore the proposition that social work's professional discourse of social justice is an instrument of social injustice. The purpose of the dissertation is (1) to illuminate "how" social work's social justice discourse is an instrument of injustice, and (2) to argue that the relation between the discourses of social justice and professionalization needs to be reversed.The dissertation argues that social injustice is generated by modernization, and that social work's drive to professionalize is a vehicle of modernization. Modernization is defined as the intertwining of three forces; (1) the cosmology of natural science, (2) capitalization of the market and (3) differentiation of a discourse of individual rights.Section 1 of the dissertation begins by defining what is meant by social justice and injustice. It then discusses Andrew Abbott's (1988) model for the system of professions. The idea that there are two foundational projects that structure what social workers do---the social justice project and the professional project---is introduced. It is demonstrated that these two projects are conflated and that this conflation serves the ends of social injustice. Different examples are used to show how professionalization over social works history has utilized the discourse of social justice to achieve its own ends as part of the professional project. It is argued that these ends are unconcerned with achieving social justice.Section 2 begins by defining ontology and hierarchy. The problem outlined in Section 1 is given theoretical context by being differentiated into three ontologies; the ontologies of (1) Subject, (2) nature, and (3) critique. Each is shown to possess a unique set of assumptions that have nothing in common with each other. What they do have in common is the language within which to exemplify just how different the worlds each assumes is from one another. It is argued that by showing how three different sets of assumptions about "what is" reality exist within social work's professional discourses, the possibility is generated to show how they can be strategically rewoven so that professionalism can become an instrument of social justice.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 2001

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