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A Moral Compass for Ethics in Practice This paper, utilizing case illustrations, argues that structural theory is a necessary but insufficient analytic device for social workers concerned with social justice.

Because it is a moral theory (concerned with unearthing underlying causes for social problems and suggesting what kind of society should be constructed), it offers direction about the values social workers should adopt. It corrects modern ray ban free shipping liberal humanist thinking by broadening the discussion of ethical concerns beyond the dyadic relationship to wide ranging political issues. It provides a measure of certainty in the paradoxical area of ethics in practice, countering the relativism of post structuralism. Structural social work has been viewed as problematic and outdated as a theoretical tool (Fook, 2002; Healy, 2000; Leonard, 1997). However, I believe that, while insufficient as a comprehensive approach for progressive social workers, it offers support to practitioners in forming ethical relationships. It is a moral theory because it is concerned with the underlying causes of social problems (Fook, 2002) and with what kind of social order we ought to construct. In particular, by arguing that the reasons for societal ills are broader than individual pathology and by advocating for strategies to enhance social justice, it provides direction to the applied science of social work which, of necessity, must decide between opposing concrete interventions in response to complex ethical conundrums. In this way it can act as a moral compass for practitioners. By suggesting underlying values, it counteracts the relativism of post structuralism and offers direction for the course of action practitioners should take. Structural social work (Corrigan Leonard, 1978; Lundy, 2004; Moreau, 1989; Mullaly, 1997, 2007; Payne, 2005; Wood Tully, 2006) is part of a critical, progressive tradition that has been concerned with the broad socio economic and political dimensions of society, especially the effects of capitalism, and the impact of these influences in creating unequal relations amongst individuals. Its primary goals have been to reduce social inequality through the transformation of Western, Euro Centric civilizations and the emancipation of those who have been oppressed. The lens of this theoretical approach has been focused on the interplay between the agency of individuals and structures, particularly the broad structural barriers which influence and limit the material circumstances of service users. By structures, I am referring to regularities and objective patterns external to individual action, intentions, and meanings, and not reducible to the sum of those meanings or actions (Kondrat, 2002, p.436), specifically both institutional arrangements and broad social relational patterns such as racism and sexism. The suggestion is that our institutions are structured in such a way as to discriminate against some people on the basis of class, race, gender, ability, sexual orientation, age, religion, etc. and that a function of the profession of social work should be on eliminating these disparities. Structural theory argues that these arrangements serve those in power, allowing them to maintain their power and privilege at the expense of others. Structural social work theory begins from a conflict, rather than an order perspective (Howe, 1987; Mullaly, 1997). The theory regards society as composed of groups with conflicting interests who compete for resources, power, and the imposition of their own ideological views of the world. In this perspective, social problems are more the result of rules which pathologize those who are marginalized (Mullaly, 1997, p.120) and the consequence of institutional arrangements which maintain social hierarchies, rather than faulty socialization of individuals. Historically, this theoretical perspective evolved from socialist ideology concerned with class struggle. In the 1970s, in the United States, Goldberg and Middleman proposed a structural approach that viewed social problems as a of inadequate social arrangements rather than individual pathology (quoted in Lundy, 2004, p.57). Concurrently in Canada, Maurice Moreau, at Carleton University, was working on his own version of structural theory. He added feminist principles to his analysis, attempting to shift the privileging of class to a more inclusive discussion of social divisions (Moreau, 1989). His view was that in a capitalist society, these inequities are inherent and self perpetuating, resulting in the exclusion from full participation of oppressed groups such as women, gays and lesbians, racially marginalized individuals, etc. (Lundy, 2004). With the social discontent fomented in the 1960s, the profession itself came in for its share of criticism by structural theorists. Social workers were critiqued as being a part of the problem by choosing to emphasize casework as a model of practice, an approach that perpetuated the pathologizing of clients. Furthermore, social workers were viewed as helping clients to and adapt to basically unjust social structures (Moreau, 1989, p.7) with the profession being else but a professionally elitist activity that mystified, infantilized and disempowered clients (Moreau, 1989, p.7). The structural model demanded that social workers their social control function to involve themselves in institutional and structural change (Moreau, 1989, p.15). Emphasis shifted to seeking more collaborative, dialogical relationships, rather than top down, expert models with service users. In structural theory, the mechanisms of oppression and the internalization of for marginalized groups were explored (Mullally, 1997, 2002, 2007). Using the feminist notion of the personal is political, practitioners were expected to identify the processes by which victims were blamed, linking service users to the broader structures that led to their domination as well as connecting them to others with similar problems (Payne, 2005). Wood and Tully (2006, p.21) identified four main tactics for structural practitioners: 1) connecting people to needed resources, 2) changing social structures, where feasible, 3) helping service users negotiate problematic situations and 4) deconstructing sociopolitical discourse to reveal the relationship with individual struggles. Providing clients with insider information was an additional strategy suggested by structural theorists (Payne, 2005). Currently, structural theory has evolved to examine the transformation of capitalism, particularly the effects of globalization, and the shifts governmentally to increasingly neo liberal agendas with the consequent effects on those most vulnerable in society (Mullaly, 2007). The view that structural theory can offer guidelines for animating political alliances and anti globalization movements is part of that exploration. Critiques of Structural Social Work Theory There have been significant critiques of the structural approach. One is that this theoretical perspective sets up a binary between human beings and structure, viewing in a reified manner, as something outside the individual. But through a recursive process, the social actor creates societal structures and is produced by these same structures. For example, each time a social worker implements a policy (or refuses); she1 participates in what is constituted as structure. Social workers contribute to the construction of a social order which favors some ways of being in the world while discouraging others. Most effects of these constructions have both emancipatory and social control elements. As an illustration: A social worker supports an overly stressed adult daughter to move a cognitively impaired father into a nursing home. This intervention will have differential effects on the daughter and father due to their divergent positions and interests. The father might not perceive being put in a home as empowering but for the adult daughter this intervention might be liberating. The limitation with structural social work theory is that it presents the field as a battle between the forces of good and evil, with social workers being on one side of that divide or the other. But due to their positioning in society, social workers are engaged in both liberatory and disciplinary functions, often at the same time, resulting in ethical trespass, the effects. that inevitably follow not from our intentions and malevolence but from our participation in social processes and identities (Orlie, 1997). Trespass is the harm that follows from a worker actions, often unwittingly, because in any act some possibilities are opened, while others are closed. Also, the effects of one actions impact differently on a multiplicity of individuals, having ripple effects beyond the immediate event that can never be fully anticipated (Weinberg, 2005). In general, structural social work theory does not allow for the contradictions that the social participation of social workers entails. But the field of social work is rife with trespasses, as well as the paradoxes and complexities that accompany them (Sachs Newdom, 1999; Weinberg, 2005, 2006). Furthermore, while there is an emphasis on the importance of categories of class, race, etc. in structural social work, structural theory is insufficiently nuanced to explain contradictions of social location and differences within social groups. teaching at a university. Is that individual oppressed based on race or part of the dominant group due to her positioning as a professor? Structural social work does not provide the analytical tools to examine these issues. Additionally, structural social work theory is limited in its exploration of an individual role as an agent of change on the micro level. Mullaly (2007, xv), in writing a third edition of a book on structural social work, acknowledged that in his earlier versions was made that the chapters on practice were not sufficiently nuanced to address the complexities of real world experience. In fact, the model has been critiqued as contributing to maintenance of a dualistic approach to micro and macro practice (Fook, 2002). While there is exploration of micro practice, the emphasis in structural social work has been on macro practice. It has been attacked for exacerbating a gendered approach both because of the status differential between primarily male sociology theorists and female practitioners, and the devaluing of micro practice, which has, by and large, been women domain (Fook, 2002). On wayfarer sunglasses the whole, there has been an under theorization of the agency of the individual in structural social work theory (Leonard, 1997) despite recent attempts to correct for this (Mullaly, 2007). This omission can contribute to an overly deterministic view of society (Pease, 2003b). In a structural analysis, power is seen as a commodity that people have to varying degrees. Power tends to be conceptualized as power over, at times missing sight of the potential constructive aspects of power. It also sets up an understanding of power in oppositional terms with power as finite (Fook, 2002). This construction of power relations can lead to the possibility of denying, for those who have been disadvantaged, the power they do have because they have been characterized as disempowered (Fook, 2002). For one person to have power would imply that another does not. Post structural theorizing has added some important dimensions to an understanding of power. In post structuralism, power is perceived as productive, not simply repressive. What is meant by is two fold. Firstly, power has potential benefits rather than simply being a negative top down force. So, while power may be between unequal players, the relations are (Foucault, 1978, p.94) with the possibility that the balance of power will be upset and that those who have been marginalized may be successful in their aims, some of the time. An example would be a client showing her displeasure about some aspect of her relationship with her worker by not being home when the practitioner comes for a planned home visit. Power creates opportunities and the potential for change. The concept of power in structural social work is not sufficiently theorized to take into account the complexities of power arrangements. Instead, it tends to view workers either wielding power on behalf of the powerless or utilizing professional power to others. The second concept in the interpretation of power that is absent from structural theory is the importance of the way in which power produces subjectivity and what is taken as truth. For instance, when a child welfare worker apprehends a child, through her use of power, she constructs what is taken to be the mother as well as contributing to what are understood as dimensions of mothering. is not discovered, it is enacted (Addelson, 1994, xii). Structural theory does not provide the apparatus for a fine grained analysis of how subject positions are constructed. Not Discarding the Baby with the Bathwater: Structural Social Work Applicability to Ethics in Social Work Practice So why not discard structural social work as a theoretical device? Fook (2002, p.16) differentiates between two kinds of theories: epistemological and moral theories. Moral theories are concerned with unearthing underlying causes. Structural social work is a moral theory. It suggests that the underlying causes for social problems are the control of resources and political power inherent in capitalistic societies (Mullaly, 1997, p.119). The system is viewed as faulty. It is a moral theory because it suggests what type of society we wish to have and how we ought to behave to create it. It examines the processes by which inequality is maintained. It brings into focus the broader dimensions that require social workers to move beyond an individualized approach to a collectivist stance. Structuralists would argue that there are universal truths (Carniol, 2005), such as peace being preferable to war, and that these values, based on reducing harm and enriching the quality of life, are consistent with the values and goals of the profession of social work. Structural theory commonalities among all forms of oppression (Mullaly, 2007, p.223), a significant conceptual tool in determining ethical action. Ironically, due in part, to its limitations as a somewhat blunt instrument which does not examine the politics of difference, it provides direction to practitioners. Because of its lack of nuance, it brings strength through certainty, a powerful political basis which to challenge the truths of dominant discourses (Allan, 2003, p.44). Social work, as an applied science, engaged in the messy, quotidian reality of practice, must have direction about societal aspirations. And because structural social work takes a moral political stance towards these questions, it charts a moral path for practitioners struggling with how to behave in a field that is fraught with complexity and contradiction. In this way it provides a moral compass for social workers by identifying the underlying causes as related to capitalism and the consequent privileging of some individuals over others through unequal access to resources. It suggests that the role of practitioners is two fold: to explore the socio political and economic context of individual difficulties and to help collectivize personal troubles; 2) to enter into a helping process that facilitates critical thinking, consciousness raising, and empowerment (Lundy, 2004, p.57). Reamer, 1999). But structural theory problematizes the underlying goodness of the social work profession due to the inherent problem of accruing benefits by reproducing social hierarchies to preserve one own power and privilege. This critique opens up the issues in ethics to a much broader range of questions. Also, traditionally, ethics has been viewed primarily from the standpoint of the relationship between worker and ray ban wayfarers price client. In particular, matters such as confidentially, boundaries, conflicts of interest etc., all aspects of the dyad of worker and client have been the focus. Abstract principles and codes that are often decontextualized, rule bound and linear have been the tools to resolve dilemmas. Linzer,1999; Robison Reeser, 2000; Rothman, 2004). But context is critically important to both the choices available and decisions made. Societal expectations, complexities of organizations, structural inequities, and the location of the workers within those structures are the very material that results in the inevitability of ethical dilemmas and trespass. For example, the inadequacy of resources can create irresolvable ethical tensions. Structural theory adds immeasurably to an understanding of the importance of context in the framing of what constitutes in social work. Consider the following scenarios: A hospital social worker has to facilitate a discharge planning process for an elderly man who lives alone, has just had a hip replacement, and is still incapacitated but cannot stay in the hospital any longer because the bed needs to be freed up given the pressure on the hospital to account for days of stay in hospital statistics. A social worker in an outreach clinic has $50 a month of discretionary funds to provide to her entire caseload of street involved youth. A hospital social worker is part of a team which is debating whether an 80 year old woman should receive dialysis when there is limited operating room space available to insert the shunt needed for the dialysis and other patients are queued to use the operating room for other serious medical problems. In each of above vignettes, resource limitations place social workers in significant ethical conundrums. The paucity of resources is not just a technical problem but an ethical predicament. But often in mainstream views of social work ethics, the lack of resources itself is not seen as an ethical violation. Thus the field does not constitute systemic constraints or workers responsibilities to fight such limitations as part of the optics of ethics in practice (for example, Reamer, 1990). Many institutions operate from the basis of a theoretical stance of modernity which has a strong normalizing effect on practitioners. Then adaptation, rather than structural transformation, becomes the goal for workers. The grand narratives of structural thinking are a helpful corrective in moving away from normative theories. In the above cases, structural theory would raise questions about a practitioner acceptance of ray ban 3386 the status quo. Should a social worker fight for the elderly man with a hip replacement to remain in the hospital? Does different policy around days of stay need to be developed? Or in the second example, should the social worker negotiate with her agency for increased funding for the street youth, or explore the possibilities for added resources through, for example, diaper companies? In the third, is the 80 year old woman who needs a shunt a victim of ageism in which the elderly are seen as deserving of the resources? Structural social work theory brings into bold relief the unequal access to the spoils of capitalism, the material realities of disadvantage, and the impact of these inequities on service users. It underscores who gets and who does not. Structural theory goes further to suggest that there is political choice and will in maintaining insufficiency. We have the means, for example, to feed all the hungry of the world, but the political resolve has never been there.

A structural approach to social work raises concerns about asymmetrical opportunities, the investment in social institutions to maintain private interests, and the inherently oppressive aspects of capitalism. It disparages the continuation of a blaming the victim mentality (Ryan, 1976) that would view the impoverished and marginalized as lazy or pathological. Structural social work puts the spotlight on the unequal sharing of.


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