On Social Theory In Social Work Essay

September 14, 2017 Social Work

We know where we have been. where we are now and where we need to travel – but how do we acquire at that place? A map. Theory is a map. It notes any figure of known landmarks ( antecedently achieved or applied solutions ) and obstructions ( issues or jobs ) and gives us way so that we are able to voyage intelligently and arrive safely ( minimum uncomfortableness to all ) at our finish ( coveted outcome/s ) .

Theory is an effort to explicate the unexplained. to give rubric to the ignoble and to give ground to the unreasonable. It is a combination of bing cognition and freshly acquired cognition that allows us to do premises in order to gain moderately foreseeable results.

It is merely in the kingdom of scientific discipline. natural philosophies and mathematics that the perennial application of a individual theory will return a consistent consequence indefinitely. However. in the societal work subjects. the perennial application of a individual theory may really good ensue in pandemonium and mayhem due merely to the add-on of the vagaries and subjectivity of human behavior – single pragmatism and personality.

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Mix society with the single so add a 3rd ingredient – power ( political. economic. etc ) and you end up with a chameleonic and metamorphosis-like consequence. what I refer to as the ‘lava lamp effect’ – changeless alteration. confusion. tangentiality. displacements in personal. political and social values and significances. Theory is the vehicle of conveying order and doing sense of all these things.

That an person on one juncture might react to certain stimulations in a peculiar manner. is no forecaster of the individual’s ( micro degree ) responses to the same or like stimulations on subsequent occasions and is surely non an indicant that the ‘collective’ ( macro degree ) will react in the same mode.

It is non possible for one individual to grok the universe as perceived by another individual. The absolute closest we can come to this is to utilize our ain imaginativeness and compare our ain experiences as a usher – empathy. Enter theory. Theory gives us the establishing tablet for action. It is a individual starting point for all societal work practicians irrespective of their single methodological penchants. Howe ( 1987. p48 ) provinces. “The loud claim is that pattern is saturated with theory no affair how much the societal worker speaks of [ their ] simple trust on commonsense or intuition. Each theory and its associated pattern holds premises about people and their society …… . ” . However. theory still remains our most valuable agent in easing acceptable if non positive results.

The nature of societal work is in a changeless province of flux and what was suited or successful yesterday may non be today although past theories still have a valid topographic point in our calculation. There is a changeless flow of new and more complex issues presenting themselves to society every twenty-four hours and more frequently than non. theory will be the lone tools available to us as a agency of sourcing solutions.

When discoursing how theories are used in pattern. Payne ( 1997. p48 ) states ; “There are three attacks to this undertaking: utilizing theories to interrogate. clear up and knock each other. utilizing theories selectively. and utilizing theories together to modify each other” and Lemert ( 1999. p20 ) states “Social theory is what we do when we find ourselves able to set into words what cipher seems to desire to speak about” .

Further. Mullaly ( 2002. p3 ) cites Reynolds ( 1971 ) “Theory carries out four basic maps: description ; account ; anticipation ; and command and direction of events or alterations ………it describes phenomena ; it attempts to explicate what causes them ; it predicts future events. including what will go on if certain intercessions occur ( or make non happen ) ; and efforts to command and pull off events or alterations at all degrees of human activity” . Theory besides has its topographic point in supplementing bing cognition – filling in the spaces as it were.

There is no disassociating theory from experience nor from premise as these two things are the interminably premier ingredients of theory. In order to make a theory we must pull upon our ain or others’ cognition bases. experiences and premises – no other source/s exist/s. Whilst most would hold that theory is by and large the footing for experiment. rather frequently the contrary is true – experiment as the footing of theory!

There one time existed a theory that technological promotions would finally ensue in a decrease of the figure of skilled shopkeepers required. This theory hence required that there be a decrease in the Numberss of ( authorities subsidised ) trade apprenticeship topographic points – a immense cost salvaging exercising. an economic positive!

However. we have since learned that this theory was implemented without a great trade of idea as to the possible negatives – those of higher young person unemployment ( increased public assistance measure ) . a much sharper diminution in the figure of skilled shopkeepers to adequately serve the community ( have you of all time tried to acquire clasp of a pipe fitter or lineman in an exigency? ) . and a steep addition in the cost to the consumer ( community ) in using those affected trade services. Some would besides reason that the decrease in apprenticeship topographic points would hold contributed to additions in assorted offenses and hence farther unneeded cost to the community and taxpayers.

A more recent theory is that of kids in detainment Centres. Some schools of idea insisted that maintaining kids in detainment was mindless and cruel and that they should be settled into local communities. Others viewed this train of idea as being reminiscent of the ‘stolen generation’ and farther theorised that it was incorrect to divide the kids from their parents and hence the female parent and kids should be settled into the community with regular visits to the male parent who should stay in detainment. There was still farther statement that cultural affairs had non been considered in that farther or other yet foreseen jobs may ensue by insulating the male parent from the household unit. Each discourse here is based merely on theory but it encourages discourse that seeks declarations. A good thing.

Not all theory is good and nor is it all bad. it is merely a helpful measure towards happening declarations where none has antecedently existed to turn to issues and jobs in society be they existent or perceived.

As can be ascertained from merely a little aggregation of readings. even theorists differ widely in their readings and applications of theory. Every ‘-ist’ of every ‘-ism’ believes that their attack is more good than those of the others. Whether they are cognizant of it or non. even those societal work practicians who would underestimate the benefits of the usage of theory in their pattern. preferring alternatively to trust on their ain intuition and experience. are still using theory – through empirical observation.


Howe. D. . 1987. An Introduction to Social Work Theory ; Making Sense in Practice. Wildwood House.

Lemert. C. . 1999. Social Theory. Second Edition ; The Multicultural and Classic Readings. MacMillan Press Ltd. Victoria.

Mullaly. B. . 2002. Challenging Oppression ; A Critical Social Work Approach. Oxford University Press.

Payne. M. . 1997. Modern Social Work Theory. Second Edition. PALGRAVE. N. Y.


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