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June 10 2012 1 10 /06 /June /2012 23:42

The thrust of my last post, I think, is possibly open to misinterpretation, largely because of my lack of clarity in relation to what Zygmunt Bauman was in fact expressing in the article referenced there.

 

I should clarify. Most people who may be considered as "doing" social work are mandated by the societies in which they live to "do something" about the troubles that have brought particular groups to the attention of the various authoritative agencies in those societies. Not surprisingly, those designated groups and the people who comprise them are likely to see social workers as primarily responsible to the state, and therefore as potential antagonists. Not surprisingly, also, the various authoritative agencies of government are prone to see social workers as not fulfilling their designated function if they advocate on behalf of those groups. Social workers are often, in fact, disaffirmed in their activities, both by those who have mandated them, and by those they are mandated to serve.

 

Part of the problem, I believe, is because social workers are in the unenviable position of knowing in detail the specific consequences of how the societies in which they function don't work. What social workers specifically experience in all their activities, then, is the particular assignments of causality made by the mandators on the one hand and their "clients" on the other. Each group thus has ready-to-hand explanations for the activity and attitudes of the other, and little motive to redefine the total situation more accurately. The collusive interactions these attitudes produce are discussed in detail in Making Sense of Us, as are also the measures for creating dissatisfaction with them.

 

It may also be worthy of note that, in an effort to dissociate from the collusiveness of contrary definitions, many social workers choose to work in agencies that are independent of authoritative bodies, as, indeed I did myself in working for the Quaker-inspired agency "Family Service Units"  in London in the early part of my career.

 

The importance of the Bauman article discussed in that earlier post is that the tendency of both groups to accept traditional definitions of the responsibility of the other becomes itself a major sustaining factor in the prevention of any move to understand those very definitions as causative of social dissaffiliation and unrest. The latter part of the commentary on the article by Jacobsen, Marshman and Tester comes very close to dramatizing the dilemma, but neither those commentators nor Bauman himself seem to have come to grips with the unknowing collusive dynamic which is the central problem. 

 

As Susanne and I agreed in our conversation many years ago, and referred to in the "Three marvellous moments: three remarkable people" post, we all need to learn how to "know better." The major question now, as then, remains––What do we do about it?

 

There! Now I feel better!

 

John.

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