On Social Theory In Social Work
We know where we have been, where we are now and where we need to go - but how do we get there? A map. Theory is a map. It notes any number of known landmarks (previously achieved or applied solutions) and obstacles (issues or problems) and gives us direction so that we are able to navigate intelligently and arrive safely (minimal discomfort to all) at our destination (desired outcome/s).
Theory is an attempt to explain the unexplained, to give title to the untitled and to give reason to the unreasonable. It is a combination of existing knowledge and newly acquired knowledge that allows us to make assumptions in order to realise reasonably foreseeable outcomes.
It is only in the realms of science, physics and mathematics that the repeated application of a single theory will return a consistent result indefinitely. However, in the social work disciplines, the repeated application of a single theory may very well result in chaos and mayhem due simply to the addition of the vagaries and subjectiveness of human behaviour - individual realism and personality.
Mix society with the individual then add a third ingredient - power (political, economic, etc) and you end up with a chameleonic and metamorphosis-like result, what I refer to as the 'lava lamp effect' - constant change, confusion, tangentiality, shifts in personal, political and societal values and meanings. Theory is the vehicle of bringing order and making sense of all these things.
That an individual on one occasion might respond to certain stimuli in a particular fashion, is no predictor of the individual's (micro level) responses to the same or like stimuli on subsequent occasions and is certainly not an indication that the 'collective' (macro level) will respond in the same manner.
It is not possible for one person to comprehend the world as perceived by another person. The absolute closest we can come to this is to use our own imagination and compare our...
References: 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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