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Sociological Social Work


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Professor Ian Shaw. Presented at 2nd International Conference Sociology and Social Work, 30-31 May 2012.

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Sociological Social Work

  1. 1. Sociological Social Work Ian Shaw 2nd International Conference Sociology and Social Work May 30-31st 2012
  2. 2.  Chicago  Doing Sociological Social Work Two themes
  3. 3.  „atomic view of the individual‟ E W Burgess  practising history  Challenging social work and sociology Why does this matter?
  4. 4.  What seems to you to be the values and limitations of the first person method of case recording for purposes (a) of social treatment of cases; (b) of sociological research?‟ Ernest - 1  My proposal is actually quite simple and I think, entirely feasible and reasonable, in spite of the fact that I do not anticipate its immediate and general adoption. It is to enter into the case record statements made by all persons visited in nearly as humanly possible the language which they used. (Burgess, 1927: 192)
  5. 5.  strongly opposed to having the language of the father and the mother in the home, of the landlord, or the teacher, or of the employer, translated into the language of the social worker on the case. The translation invariably and inevitably distorts the point of view and the attitude of the person interviewed. Each informant has a right to have himself appear in the record in his own language. (pp.192-93) Ernest - 2  Existing case records seldom, or never, picture people in the language of Octavia Hill, with their “passions, hopes, and history” or their “temptations”, or “the little scheme they have made of their lives, or would make if they had encouragement.” The characters in case records do not move, and act, and have their being as persons. They are depersonalized, they become Robots, or mere cases undifferentiated except by the recurring problems they present. (1928: 526-27)
  6. 6.  „selection of facts amounts to an implicit interpretation of them‟ (Sheffield, 1922: 48). Ada  „the traditions and training of the observer more or less condition the nature of the fact-items that make their appearance… In this sense the subject-matter of much social study is unstable. Not only do two students perceive different facts, they actually in a measure make different facts to be perceived.‟ She is using „student‟ in the wider sense of anyone who is studying, including researchers and social workers.
  7. 7. Case study research, and the closely connected development of life histories, were central to Chicago School sociology.  Sociologists accessed urban life in some ways through social work agency records.  The term „case‟ as developed and strongly owned by sociologists was a direct „loan word‟ from social workers.  Case work
  8. 8.   The case history is… appearing increasingly in professional and even in popular journals, and is thus becoming, not only a technical tool, but also a more general means of approach to the under-standing of human behaviour (Bartlett, 1928: 379) ‟The social reform community began to use the casebook format shortly after 1900, a practice that grew naturally out of the work of charities organization societies‟ (Abbott and Egloff, 2008: 236). Social work and the case
  9. 9.     Making the unfolding development of services apparent. „By the study of records selected in this way students should develop a sense of history in their attitude toward the art of family case work‟ (Breckinridge, 1924: 4) The inclusion of supplementary reports enables the student to „develop what might be called a sense of actuality and of reality‟ (p.4). „The successful use of these records should produce a habit of thought…a power of analysis of community relationships‟ (p.4). This reformist agenda is more explicit in the final sentence of her Introduction. „It is hoped that the study of the case records in this volume may successfully develop in the student a quickened sense of the responsibility of the case worker for necessary community action‟ (p15). „An appreciation of the difficulties under which all agencies do their work‟ (p.5). Breckinridge
  10. 10. „(O)nly the eclectic combination of ethnography, statistics, life history, and organizational history could do full justice to the multiple layers of spatial and temporal contexts for social facts‟ (Abbott, 1998 p.207).  „Fundamental to the case-study method is the effort to view the different aspects of the problem as an organic, inter-related whole‟ (Vivien Palmer, 1928: 20).  Sociology and the case
  11. 11.  it „can help us to study the processes of group life… (S)ociologists…lack the opportunity to do so which the social worker possesses. Large-scale investigations do not bring us close to it. Statistical information cannot yield this knowledge… It is only those who are in a position to use the case method…who can open out for us its possibilities‟ (McIver, 1931 p.82f). Robert McIver
  12. 12.  referred to case study as a process of accumulating a mass of data to afford a „complete and vivid picture of the interrelated factors…‟ He also argues, in terms typical of his Chicago colleagues, that one can only understand the delinquent act in the total context of its setting. It is „particularly the life history document‟ that „reveals the process or sequence of events…‟ Clifford Shaw
  13. 13.  „Where would you rather live than on the street where your family lives at present? Why? What's the best thing about your neighborhood? What don't you like about your neighborhood? Why? What wrong goings-on do you know about in your neighborhood? What's the worst thing you know about that goes on in the neighborhood?....‟ (1928 pp 162ff) Walter Reckless
  14. 14.  For social work it was linked to the reform agenda  For sociology it was central to efforts to understand the community the case was not limited to or even primarily an individual category
  15. 15.  social work - „straight furrow‟ and „field cultivation‟  sociology - debates about statistical and field research approaches Internal differences
  16. 16.     Sheffield's assumption of vague, undefined social norms and a psychology of “sentiments” equally vague and confused‟ (p63 as subjective as the position she criticises such that she „loses sight of, obscures and confuses the behaviour behind the term‟. „Happily there was no crystallization at this level of development in social case work‟ (p.64). „The problem is externalized and causes are located in the environment‟ (p.183) - „the sociological phase‟ in social work‟s development. Virginia Robinson, 1930 the elixir of psychodynamic explanation
  17. 17.  research findings as a practice resource  the value for practice of sociological method Doing Sociological Social Work
  18. 18.  Historically, the influence of science on direct social work practice has taken two forms. One is the use of the scientific method to shape practice activities, for example, gathering evidence and forming hypotheses about a client‟s problem. The other form is the provision of scientific knowledge about human beings, their problems and ways of resolving them. (Reid, 1998: 3) Bill Reid
  19. 19.  a framework of embedded qualitative evaluation and inquiry as a dimension of good practice  Shaw, I. (2011) Evaluating in Practice. Aldershot: Ashgate Publications ‘qualitative social work’
  20. 20.  intellectual reciprocity based on egalitarian respect to speak to the social science community
  21. 21. A narrowness of conception of intervention possibilities. For most practitioners it assumes practice as delivered through interviewing – and more than that, a certain kind of interviewing that easily becomes routinized and formulaic.  An unhelpful – because again narrowly conceived – conception of the relationship between research and practice. The „application of research knowledge‟ approach has a number of problems but the central one for our purposes is that it renders the „method‟ of social work invisible.  An unduly deferential and subservient conception of the relationship between social science and social work.  A constrained view of what is entailed in social work evaluation. Typically a post hoc, evaluation-as-accountability model  social work problems
  22. 22. translating e.g. „provide the tools and translations necessary for discovering and witnessing clinical stories and knowledge‟ (Miller and Crabtree, 2005: 609)  Counter-colonizing  interruption  inhabiting  Doing Qualitative Social Work
  23. 23.         Ethnography and its variants, life histories and (auto)biography, visual methods, interviews in their diverse sociological forms, narrative, simulations, documents, a range of lesser known innovatory qualitative methods This includes….
  24. 24. a relationship between sociology and social work something like two adjacent „open systems.‟  For sociology, for example, I call for a greater responsiveness to the conceptual and methodological challenges offered by social work;  for social work a readiness to conceive of a sociological practice,  Social work and sociology
  25. 25.  the nature of a „practical‟ sociology  joint working group? Supporting the development of sociological social work