Structural and Postmodern Social Work Theories

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Critical social work theory does not hold one single definition; rather it refers to an expansive range of theories that a share similar orientation. Critical social work is committed to working with and for oppressed populations to achieve social transformation. Critical social work recognizes that large scale social processes – namely those associated with class, race and gender – fundamentally contribute to the personal and social issues social workers encounter in practice (Healy, 2001). The core mission of critical social work is to promote social justice through social work practice and policy making. Critical social work draws on structural and postmodern approaches. Similarities and differences exist between these approaches in…show more content…
Through collective action and emphasizing solidarity among the oppressed, a structural approach links the personal with the political, making it possible for people to consider their personal experience of oppression within a broader political understanding (Mullaly, 1997).

Alternatively, Postmodern approaches focus on discourse analysis and discursive processes (Chambon and Irving, 1994). Postmodern critical social work approaches tend to focus less on targeting change at the broader political/structural level (Allan, 2003, p.57). The language of dominant discourses is analyzed for its potential to marginalize individuals and groups and prevent their rights and needs from being met (Allan, 2003, p.60).

The difference in emphasis between the structural and postmodern approaches on where social workers should focus their attention and actions to bring about change illustrate the tension between diversity and solidarity, or mutual interdependence (Allan, 2003, p.58). Both approaches are committed to change-oriented ways of working, holding particular attention to the socio-political and cultural contexts in which people or issues are situated, and to workings of power through ideologies or discourses (Allan, 2003, p.58).

Structural social work views social problems as arising from a specific societal context, that being liberal/neo-conservative capitalism, rather than from the failings of individuals (Mullaly, 1997). Structural

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