A critical study of social work management, with particular reference to the moral dimension of social work practice

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A critical study of social work management, with particular reference to the moral dimension of social work practice

 

Author: Chan, Kun-sun Joseph
Title: A critical study of social work management, with particular reference to the moral dimension of social work practice
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2004
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Social work administration
Social service -- Moral and ethical aspects
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: vii, 384 leaves ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b1762023
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/682
Abstract: This is a study using the critical hermeneutic perspective to understand social work management, with particular reference to the moral dimension of social work practice. In recent years, managerialism has become a dominant approach in social work and social administration. In focusing on the questions of "cost-effectiveness" and "value for money", the managerialist approach believes that better social services would be provided by improving the way social service organizations are managed. Solving social problems thus becomes equivalent to providing social services in an effective and efficient way. The practice of social work is understood mainly at the level of skills and techniques. The helping relationship between the client and the social worker is seen as if it is a business-like market-exchange relationship. Notions of social work practice, such as "self-determination" and "empowerment", are re-conceptualized in market terms. And the client is seen as if s/he is a "customer". In such a way, the moral dimension of social work practice is concealed. The present research basically develops against such background. In contrast to the managerialist business model of social work practice, this research uses the critical hermeneutic approach in conceptualizing "social work as moral practice". In this way, the moral import of social work concepts, such as "self-determination", "empowerment", and "client participation" may be better understood. This study begins with a reflection on the limitations of the managerialist approach in understanding social work practice, especially with respect to the notion of "social work as moral practice". But it should be noted that this is not to deny the importance of good management in social work, rather it attempts to show that a deeper understanding of social work practice must refer to the moral aspect of the discipline. In order to understand how social work practice is influenced by both the managerial requirements and its moral values, Jurgen Habermas's "system-lifeworld" perspective would be used as the main theoretical guidelines far the present study. This study adopts the method of semi-structured in-depth interviews for collecting data. The interviewees were selected from three different groups, namely the agency heads of the social service organizations, the social work supervisors, and the front-line social work practitioners. Implications of using critical hermeneutics in understanding social work management will be outlined and discussed accordingly.

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