Essay on To What Extent Can Social Work Be Adequately Conceptually Understood in Terms of a Position at the Interface Between Social Exclusion and Social Inclusion?

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SCW 541

Contemporary Social Work Theory and Issues

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To what extent can social work be adequately conceptually understood in terms of a position at the interface between social exclusion and social inclusion?

To what extent can social work be adequately conceptually understood in terms of a position at the interface between social exclusion and social inclusion?

According to the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) the social work profession ‘promotes the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance wellbeing. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their
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Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), and later Talcott Parsons (1951), suggests that societies were social ‘systems’, made up of interrelated social elements, and that these systems were ‘moral’ entities. Durkheim and Parsons argue that all human associations give rise to expectations in patterns of conduct, therefore producing restrictions on how a person should or shouldn’t behave. Hence emerges ‘collective consciousness’ which, in turn, constrains an individual and obliges them to act in particular ways (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis, 1992). One way is that norms ‘effectively discipline individuals above all through their moral authority, relatively independent of any instrumentally significant consequences of conformity with them’ (Parsons 1951, p. 37). The other is that there is a tendency for individuals to ‘develop and maintain attachment to the same integrated system of norms and to find solidarity in the pursuit of shared goals’ (Parsons 1934: 295, Peacock 1976: 265). The Functionalist, therefore, would suggest that social work is very much concerned with the deviants in society, the individuals that do not conform to society’s norms. However this notion too could be contested, as, if the social work profession concerns itself with the deviants of society, the client could be at risk from labelling and of being further excluded by the social worker themselves. Sheppard (2006), asserts that social work is, in fact, exclusionary and that social