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The postmodern as an aid to empowerment : understanding staff and users

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The aim of this chapter is to consider the contributions a postmodern approach can offer to understanding changes in the organisation of social work and the impact on service users. The discussion defines users as the recipients of social services - mainly clients and patients but much of the argument applies also to tenants, offenders or students. These users are vital parts of the system - no users, no service - but they are marginalised by the management and organisation of their services. There are other users of social work services in other agencies, for example hospital consultants who need their beds unblocked, and more indirectly the local and national politicians who need social work to legitimate their concern with social problems. However these groups are not the focus of this chapter. The postmodern can be divided into the material and the intellectual. The material describes changes that are taking place in the world such as globalisation, the information technology revolution and the triumph of market capitalism. The intellectual aspect refers to changes in ways of thinking about or understanding the world. It is much more controversial since in its extreme forms it undermines the validity of western scientific rationality and so of the dominant ideological view of knowledge.

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