Varetagelse af trivsel – samfundets velfærdssystem.

Studenteropgave: Kandidatspeciale og HD afgangsprojekt

  • Rasmus Ahrenkilde
4. semester, Socialt Arbejde, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
The work in the thesis can best be summarized through a threefold aim/challenge description:

1) How is it possible to help people who want to become social workers to interact with clients in a conscious, helpful and open-minded inclusive way? A) One obstacle might be that social workers can be seen as those who are at the frontline when it comes to letting people in society know what society will tolerate, i.e. they are said to be the gatekeepers of the inclusion/exclusion distinction (Järvinen 2002, Paine 1997 : 4-5). B) Another obstacle could be social worker’s interest in reaching a higher societal status. It is debated, at least in Nordic countries, whether social workers have an actual professional identity, i.e. it is unclear if they should understand themselves as part of the states regulation system, as an independent profession or should identify in a common human way with the clients and lower classes with whom they work (Uggerhøj 1998). In addition, there seems to be rather unclear guidelines for what one studies, when one is being educated as a social worker or social work scientist. Monopolizing a knowledge field is often said to condition professional identity, but in the social area there seems to be no theoretical core (Dellgran & Höjer 2002). This drives forward an interest in heightening or rather clarifying the theoretical area (as the standards are quit high). Could there be found a meta-theory or some guidelines to make the field less interdisciplinary and eclectic and give grounds for a professional social worker identity? The problem is that this might distance social workers from their clients (Uggerhøj 1998). Research shows, that a common form of human friendliness at eye level is what is most highly valued among people with social needs (Uggerhøj 2002). So what should we do? How do we tackle these challenges for social workers, giving them a stronger sense of identity, so that other discourses than the social ones does not disrupt the work and lead to self-doubt amongst social workers with good intentions. This without social workers losing their understanding and sympathy with clients, whom it is all about? (Uggerhøj 1998)

2) In a rather different direction, the second aim aspect reflects on a very overall level how welfare can be secured in the future given the economic crises? And much broader in the light of the world tending to go towards a globally economical connected field with few ideological conflicts and therefore less organizational societal need for the citizens’ loyalty? I.e. need for state loyalty can be seen as the strongest factor for expanding and keeping higher levels of social security. (Harste 2010) During the cold war, welfare was expanded the most, as "the West" was battling "the East" on both a military and economic basis. Today global competition between nation states is primarily economic, and the West is losing ground to autocratic capitalistic societies (Fenby 2012). It seems that Fukuyama could be wrong - political and democratic rights may not lead to the most fit society in the economic sense (Fukuyama 1992).

There seems to be some kind of security issues for the state with regard to terror. Soft integration policies tend to resolve most extremist tendencies. However, the case of China and other Asian countries, where economic growth are prioritized over freedom and political rights - and this actually leading to high economical performance, it may tempt western leaders to try to limit the threat from terror through social control, and in general give less notice to welfare on a liberal basis (Rosén 2004). Promoting welfare is not just a simple matter. From the history of communism we know that it is not just the intentions or the level of help that gives society it’s significant variations (Arendt 1972, Popper 1962). The forms of help and the general societal understandings are of great importance. This raises the question of what they are - or should be? What are the foundations of western social thinking? It also gives the idea, that it is likely that illuminating the European social tradition will secure higher forms of welfare, as this will make social workers more conscious of the tradition and also provide a stronger base for argumentation.

With this we have our starting point. Regarding the first challenge, I reckon looking for a broad social philosophical illumination will not lead to a professional social worker identity that leads to the mentioned problems. The ideal of philosophy is never to be caught by one particular theory or perspective and thereby distance oneself from the human perspective at the matter (Fink 1999). Further, a philosophical character is best described as the ability to “stand in the open” (Hansen 2008). This should secure the ground for social workers meeting the clients at eyelevel while a further philosophical understanding can give status and strengthen the discipline at academia and in society in general. Regarding the second challenge, I welcome the outlook of a less conflictual global era, but fear economical convergences across countries with a more transnational elite, whose goals might be more based on economical functionality with forms of suppression at the expense of rights and liberal social security.

The method for searching for the important understandings for the social area is a Koselleck-Skinner history of concepts approach. Luhmann is consulted on what form the semantics in a specific area might take. To look for the rise, I start chronologically from Greek Antiquity, through the Roman Empire, Medieval Christianity, The Renaissance, The Reformation, Times of Monarchy’s (17th century), and then arriving at The Age of Enlightenment, where the western welfare social philosophy takes its beginning. a) Utilitarianism, b) French Enlightenment thinking represented by Rousseau, and c) German by Kant, they all contribute to understandings that include every citizen and cannot accept trans-individual values that obstruct either a) the highest general level of welfare, i.e. “The Greatest-Happiness Principle”, a) security of needs of all, i.e. Rousseau’s “Theory of The General Will” or a) promotion of human dignity and space for ethical selfhood, i.e. Kant’s Social Theory. It is not just one of these social philosophies that provide the semantics for what the social area is about but rather a mix. Conceptual historical understanding is not that new semantics take over and changes all perspectives of a time. Rather it understands historical process as one where more and more perspectives give nuances and enters the battle for becoming the most influential. After period of the Enlightenment the investigation looks to Hegel, who highlights the individual’s need for community and mutual recognition. From this point in history sociology also emerges and takes interest in the conditions of inclusion as each individual’s participation in society is seen as an aspect of societal welfare. A look at Marx follows. He, of cause, is the thinker who provides a framework, which starts the broader social historical process of bringing welfare to the fore. Next, Nietzsche provides a more individualistic perspective for power critique. Being loyal to class thinking, one could easily end up being part of a totalitarian party structure. Social work today must not force a certain political understanding on the client but attempt to get the personal drive “to be somebody” activated. Freud, and with him the psychological approach in general, which is where the investigation ends, does not differ much from this. Freud founds research regarding the inner drives, and how complications might be explained and dealt with.

Having arrived at modernity we can see that radical change over time has occurred. Supplementing a more materialistic approach it is clear, that the social area’s coming about cannot be understood without the significance of the groundbreaking work of thinkers, concepts and social philosophical reasoning. This might seem trivial, but given the present status of the field, ‘theories of social work and the welfare system’, where there is no acknowledged tradition for pointing to groundbreaking social philosophers; no common literature or textbooks, and therefore no idea of whom might be of importance, except from Marx and Freud, the work seems to have been necessary (Meeuwisse & Swärd 2004, Payne 1997, Hutchinson & Oltedal 2002, Villandsen 2003 Petersen 2003 Jonasens 1994, Hornemann Møl­ler 1981, Esping-Andersen 1990). Having said this, we arrive at the third element and actual aim.

3) The aim of the thesis is to point to solid thinkers, that can be seen as the social concept’s founding fathers. This for future work with the social theoretical tradition. This can be seen as addressing, as described, the two key challenges for the social area. In the end of the assignment, I argue that the concepts and thinkers found, mentioned above, does the job of providing not the full but some explanation of what is the basis of social work and the welfare system.

Udgivelsesdato16 nov. 2012
Antal sider86
Udgivende institutionAalborg Universitet, Kandidatuddannelsen i Socialt Arberjde
ID: 70884423