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Theories of Social Work

by srinivasan-rengasamy





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  • S.Rengasamy Madurai Institute of Social Work Theories of Social Work Social Workers Celebrating Community –Honouring Diversity
  • Social Work is a practical job. It is about protecting people and changing their lives, not about giving theoretical explanations of why they got into difficulties … Social work is about social change at the individual as well as at community level. Change is complex, diversified and risk prone. To understand it, social worker need knowledge. imagination, comprehension & creativity….in short, a radical shift in understanding “Knowledge as process” as opposed to “Knowledge as product” is needed. But our understanding of social work (especially with the faculty and students of social work colleges in non metropolitan cities of India and students with low level mastery of English language) is frozen with the simple definition of social work is the art and science of helping the people to help themselves. Compilation and interpretation of social work definition accessible to the students (PD Mishra 1994) conveys a meaning that social work is a “helping” “assisting” „enabling” activity, which in turn suggests social work is seen as a benign and uncontentious activity, willingly accepted. This understanding fails to reflect the major transformations social work discipline has undergone as well as its global outlook. There is nothing wrong in simplifying a concept, but if it ignores the complexities associated with the concept, that will end our further seeking. Whatever may be a definition of social work, it is normally based on certain perspectives and understanding of that perspective / theory will help us to appreciate that definition. It is this clarity that normally make one to commit in his/ her professional responsibilities.
  • Definition of social work generally convey What is the need of social work or Why Social work? How social work is carried out? To whom social work is going to serve? or characteristics of its cliens To answer these questions one need to know why people are suffering. What is our responsibilities towards fellow human beings? How we gain knowledge about the human problems? What makes us perceive the human problems in a particular way? Why we subscribe to certain methods of solving problems? …. Social workers need to answer these questions before addressing others problems. Theories & perspectives of social work may provide some answers to these questions
  • Why Social Work? Life means to face the demands of day to day life and realize the self. By life tasks we mean the responses people make as they face the demands made upon them in various life situations, such is growing up in a family, entering school or work, raising a family, earning their daily bread, working in the industry, problems relating to job or earning, facing illness, accidents and death. People are dependent on social systems to realize their aspirations and to cope with their life tasks. In order to realize their life tasks people have to interact with three kinds of resource systems in the social environment 1. Informal or natural resource system consists of family, friends, neighbors, co workers, etc 2. Formal resource system consists of membership in organizations, trade union organizations or other socio cultural organizations 3. Social resource system such as schools, hospitals, housing societies, police, banks etc Why people are unable to obtain the resources, services or opportunities in the resource systems, they need to cope with their life tasks and realize their aspirations? 1. A needed resource or service may be scarce or may not exist or may not provide appropriate help to people who need it. 2. People may not know the existence of a resource system or may be hesitant to turn it for help for several reasons like distance, corruption, delay or poor quality etc 3. The polices and procedures of the resource system may inhibit / prevent it access (eg. eligibility criteria, gender, etc) 4. Several resource system may be working at cross purposes The purpose of social work is to enable the people to use the social resources to meet their life tasks
  • What do we mean by helping people to help themselves? 1. Increased understanding of oneself or a situation. 2. Being able to make a decision 3. Being able to confirm a decision. 4. Being able to get a support for a decision. 5. Being able to change a situation 6. Adjusting to a situation that is not going to change 7. Being able to examine options and choosing one 8. Being able to discharge feelings Compare self help with empowerment Empowerment includes the following, or similar, capabilities:- The ability to make decisions about personal/collective circumstances The ability to access information and resources for decision-making Ability to consider a range of options from which to choose (not just yes/no, either/or.) Ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making Having positive-thinking about the ability to make change Ability to learn and access skills for improving personal/collective circumstance. Ability to inform others’ perceptions though exchange, education and engagement. Involving in the growth process and changes that is never ending and self-initiated Increasing one's positive self-image and overcoming stigma Increasing one's ability in discreet thinking to sort out right and wrong
  • T h e o ry i s a n “ a tt e m p t to r e tr o s p e c ti v e ly e x p la in a n d t o p ro s p e c ti v e ly p re d ic t” What is theory? It is important first to be clear what the term theory means in an academic sense. Cottrell provides a useful general definition: A theory is a set of ideas that helps to explain why something happens or happened in a particular way, and to predict likely outcomes in the future. Theories are based on evidence and reasoning, but have not yet been conclusively proved. Thompson‟s definition includes similar ideas: An attempt to explain…a framework for understanding…a set of ideas linked together to help us make sense of a particular issue. Writing about social work theory, Beckett makes a connection with practice: …a set of ideas or principles used to guide practice which are sufficiently coherent that they could if necessary be made explicit in a form which was open to challenge.
  • It will be useful if we understand the different types of theories taught and the logic as why are these theories imparted to the students. It may be logical to group these theories in broader categories e.g. Theories of evolution, Theories of personality (development) & learning theories, Theories of social organization and social change, theories of social stratification, Theories of individual and group behavior, Theories of deviance, crime and correction, Theories of economic growth and development, theories of group dynamics and leadership, Theories of social work (clinical practice) etc.
  • Curriculum Development Centre in Social Work Education, University Grants Commission, India recognized three elements of social work curriculum 1. Values of the profession 2. Skills and methods that are developed for the professional task 3. Major theories and concepts Objectives of teaching theories 1. Refinement of practice 2. Provision of changing theoretical inputs to the social work knowledge base 3. Building up of new theories from the practice data The centre has recommended to include many different theories discretely and dispersaly but failed to do a wise selectivity of appropriate theories to be taught rationally and coherently and imparting knowledge of these theories compactly as an independent course that are taught in other disciplines eg. Sociological Theories, Modern Economic Theories, Contemporary Political Theories, Psychological Theories
  • Thompson explains that there are different levels of theories. These are:  Grand, macro-level or global theories (sometimes known as meta-narratives), such as Marxism or Psychoanalysis, which claim to be able to explain everything in society, or all human behavior;  Middle-range theories which focus on a limited range of issues – for instance, labeling theory, which from a social integrationist perspective aims to explain deviance;  Micro theories developed to explain very small-scale situations – for instance, relationships between staff and patients on a hospital ward.
  • The term theory is loosely used in social work profession. The use of social work theories in professional literature is rather ambiguous. Concepts, frames of reference, practice models and philosophical propositions have been termed as theories.
  • How theories help social workers? Social workers might use theory to understand and explain three main aspects of social work 1. The task and purpose of social work – the role of social work in society; 2. Practice theories: sometimes called social work approaches or methods – how to go about doing social work; 3. The world of service users, including the internal (psychological) world and the external (social) world
  • In social work, the term ‘theory’ covers three different possibilities: Provable explanations why something happens (Explanatory Theory) Organized description of activity in a structured form (Models) Ways of conceptualizing the world or a particular subject (Perspective)
  • Conceptual Frameworks Theories OF Social Work Theories FOR Social Work Orienting Theories Practice Frameworks Practice Perspectives Practice Theories Practice Models Theories of social work Focus on the profession and explain its purpose, domain, and character within the society. They describe what the profession is all about and why it functions as it does. Theories for social work Focus on clients and helping activities. They explain human behaviours, the social environment, how change occurs and how change can be facilitated by the social worker in order to benefit
  • Orienting Theories Orienting theories describe and explain behaviour and how and why certain problems develop. They provide important background knowledge and are usually borrowed from other disciplines such as biology, psychology, sociology, economics, cultural anthropology, and the like. Examples include the various theories related to human development, personality, family systems, socialization, organizational functioning, and political power, as well as theories related to specific types of problems such as poverty, family violence, mental illness, teen pregnancy, crime and racial discrimination. Practice Perspective This is a particular way of viewing and thinking about practice. It is a conceptual lens through which one views social functioning and it offers very broad guidance on what may be important considerations in a practice situation. Like a camera lens, a perspective serves to focus on or magnify a particular feature. Two perspectives, the general systems perspective and the ecosystems perspective, are commonly used in assessing relationships between people and their environment. Practice Theory It offers both an explanation of certain behaviours or situations and guidance on how they can be changed. A practice theory serves as a road map for bringing about a certain type of change. Most practice theories are rooted in one or more orienting theories. An example is psychosocial therapy, which is based primarily on psychodynamic theory and ego psychology. Another is behaviour therapy, which is derived from the psychology of learning Practice Model Practice Model is a set of concepts and principles used to guide intervention activities. The term model is also used when referring to a conceptual framework that is borrowed from one field and applied in another, for example, the medical model (study, diagnose, treat) and the legal model (an approach to social action and client advocacy, involving competition and conflict among adversaries). Practice Frameworks
  • Framework for Social Work Practice Social work draws from many frameworks for practice, but some of these frameworks have had more influence on the profession of social work than others. The three influential frameworks are The Ecosystem Perspective This perspective focuses on the interplay between the person and his or her environment. To understand the functioning of the individual, we must understand his or her environmental context: Individuals exist within families Families exist within communities and neighborhoods Individuals, families, and neighborhoods exist in a political, economic, and cultural environment The environment impacts the actions, beliefs, and choices of the individual The Strengths Perspective This perspective is built on the assumption that every individual, family, group and community has strengths and focusing on these strengths leads to growth and overcoming difficulties. Under this perspective, clients are generally the best experts about what types of helping strategies will be effective or ineffective. The Cultural Competence Perspective This perspective is the understanding and approval of cultural distinctions, taking into account the beliefs, values, activities, and customs of distinctive population groups. Many cultures have prescribed ways of talking about health and the human body and these factors impact a person's reaction and acceptance of health services. These perspectives are consistent with a Family-Centered or Client-Centered approach, which is central to the standards of best practice with persons with disabilities and consistent with social work's central values and framework.
  • How might theory be of use to social workers? Social work, like all professions, uses theory to guide practice. Observation: theory provides guidance on what a social worker might need to look out for when meeting people who use services or carers and their families. Description: theory provides a generally understood and shared language in which these observations can be organized and recorded. Explanation: theory can suggest how different observations might be linked in a framework that explains them. Prediction: theory can indicate what might happen in the future. Intervention: theory can provide ideas about what might bring about a change in the situation.
  • The importance of theory Theory is important, in social work and social work education for a number of reasons because it: Theory is the mark of a profession; Theory can ensure accountability; Theory can help avoid discrimination; Theory provides a way of making sense of complexity and uncertainty
  • A clear theoretical perspective guides and influences social work practice in five key areas Observation: it tells us what to see, what to look out for Description: it provides a conceptual vocabulary and framework within which observations can be arranged and organized. Explanation: it suggests how different observations might be linked and connected; it offers possible causal relationships between one event and another Prediction: it indicates what might happen next Intervention: it suggests things to do to bring about change Why should Social Workers be concerned about theory?
  • What do we mean by theory in social work? Payne (1991: 52) helps us by distinguishing four types of theory 1. Theories about social work explain the nature and role of social work in society 2. Theories of social work describe which activities constitute social work, set aims for social work activities and explain why those activities are relevant and effective in meeting the aims 3. Theories contributing to social work are the psychological, sociological and other theories which explain or describe personal and social behaviour and are used to make theories of social work systematic, related to general social science explanations and to give supporting evidence for the social work theory’s prescriptions 4. Theories of social work practice and method prescribe in detail how the other theories so far outlined may be applied in the interaction between workers and clients
  • Is social work a teachable practice? Or does it come from experience and creativity? Some argue that Social work is less technical, more creative and intuitive. Both client and social worker are important when dealing with issues as the client is the expert of his own personal life. The ideal theory for social work would therefore be one that encourages deep thinking and questioning, one that respects the inherent dignity of the client and complexity of social problems... not one that categorizes People believe that science can furnish means, but not ends. Methods but not goals. So, Social workers must achieve something other than technical proficiency, i.e. Understanding the human condition, not science. Social workers use contextual knowledge. Synthesis of knowledge from many sources, including personal experience. Common sense and wisdom on the job
  • Social Work Theories Behavioral Theories B.F. Skinner Ivan Pavlov Cognitive Theories Alfred Adler Jean Piaget Crisis Theory Kathleen Ell B. Gilliland & R. James L.G. & H. J. Parad Ecological System Theory Urie Bronfenbrenner Empowerment Theory E. Cox & L. Gutierrez J. Lee, E. Canada, P. Chatterjee & S.P. Robbins Family Life Cycle Theory Family Systems Strategic Therapy (Model) Humanistic (Existential/ Transpersonal) Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers Carl Jung Object Relations Theory Margaret Mahlen, Otto Kernberg Psychodynamic Theory Sigmund Freud, Eric Erickson Social-Cultural Theory Lev Vygotsky: Thomas Scheff: Solution Focused Therapy (Model) Structural Family Therapy Murray Bowen, Virginia Satir 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
  • Knowledge about Different Theories regard to Different Social Work Fields Research Methodology Raising Awareness about Life Long Learning (Professional /Personal Development) Skills to Work with Clients Learning about Different Theoretical Approaches Recognition & Analyze of Social Processes Knowledge from other Disciplines Professional Values Knowledge & Understanding of Legal & administration Procedures & Social Care Institutions Functioning
  • Social Work Practice Encounters pressing need Needs personally left Requires immediate action Focuses on interpersonal practice Social Policy as theory Seeks cultural Change Requires social action Calla for long term strategy Stress on strategic planning/analysis
  • Why do we need theories in social work? The use of theories makes Social Workers feel more safe & competent in their practice, reduces feelings of helplessness & fear of unknown For social workers theory is important because it teaches social workers how to perceive people through their resources, not to classify them according to their’s a shift from control to help. In order to see the beauty of one theory, it’s important to learn about many theories. This is how we can prevent making an ideology out of one theory The more social workers use theories, less they use intuition, and it makes social work practice more professional and efficient Theory, together with intuition is a way to develop personal style of professional practice...without theory, just with intuition, social workers would feel like a puppet on strings.
  • Major Theories – Used in Social Work Practice Primary Perspectives Current Social Work Practice Models In brief, social work practice models are like recipes. They are step-by-step guides for client sessions. Perspectives represent what aspects of the session are emphasized or highlighted in a session (i.e. questions asked or time spent). Theories are overall explanations of the person-in-environment configuration. Theories help explain why the problem is occurring and where the most efficient intervention should take place. Systems Theory Psychodynamic Theory Social Learning Theory Conflict Theory  Strengths  Feminist  Eco-Systems Problem Solving Task- Centered Solution Focused Narrative Cognitive Behavioral Crisis
  • Types of theory Theories explaining what social work is Formal written accounts defining the nature and purposes of welfare (e.g. upon by practitioners for defining personal pathology, liberal reform, Marxist, feminist) Moral, political, cultural values drawn upon by practitioners for defining ‘functions’ of social work Theories explaining how to do social work Formal written theories of practice (e.g. casework, family therapy, group work); applied deductively; general ideas may be applied to particular situations Theories inductively derived from particular situations; can be tested to see if they apply to particular situations; also unwritten practice theories constructed from experience Theories explaining the client world Formal written social science theories and empirical data (e.g. on personality, (e.g. the marriage, the family, race, class, gender) Practitioners’ use of experience and general cultural meanings (e.g. the family as an institution, normal behavior, good parenting)
  • Theory A general statement about the real world whose essential truth can be supported by evidence obtained through the scientific method. – Must explain in a provable way why something happens. Ex: Learning theory explains behavior on the basis of what organisms have learned from the environment. Model Is a blueprint for action. It describes what happens in practice in a general way. Ex: The behavioral model (based on learning theory) gives specific guidelines to for how to effect change. If a parent complains that his child is having difficulty staying in his own bed at night and the parent has been allowing the child to sleep in his/her bed( thereby reinforcing the child‟s difficulty) the practitioner would help the parent to extinguish the behavior by removing the reinforcement. Perspective A way of perceiving the world flows from a value position. Note: The perspective will influence choice of theory and model. Note: Payne (1997) argues that social work theory succeeds best when it contains all three elements of perspective, theory and model. Example: Men who batter their partners Theory: Social learning theory – men learn their violent behavior in their family of origin, and from a culture that rewards anger and violence in men; cognitive theory – what men say to themselves in situations of stress increases their anger and their propensity to be violent. Model: Cognitive-behavioral Perspective: Feminist
  • Levels of Practice Major Purposes, Outcomes, or Processes Associated with Levels of Social Work Practice Individual & Group Empowerment Through "self help," "mutual aid," and "conscientization" strategies individuals and groups learn how to perceive and act upon the contradictions that exist in the social, political, and economic structures intrinsic to all societies. Conflict Resolution Efforts directed at reducing: (1) grievances between persons or groups; or, (2) asymmetric power relationships between members of more powerful and less powerful groups. Institution- Building Refers both to the process of "humanizing" existing social institutions and that of establishing new institutions that respond more effectively to new or emerg-ing social needs. Community- Building Through increased participation and "social animation" of the populace, the process through which community's realize the fullness of their social, political, and economic potential; the process through which communities respond more equitably to the social and material needs of their populations. Nation- Building The process of working toward the integration of a nation's social, political, economic, and cultural institutions at all levels of political organization. Region- Building The process of working toward the integration of a geo-political region's social, political, economic, and cultural institutions at all levels of social organization. World-Building The process of working toward the establishment of a new system of interna-tional relationships guided by the quest for world peace, increased social jus-tice, the universal satisfaction of basic human needs, and for the protection of the planet's fragile eco-system. Levels & Definitions of Social Economic Development Practice in Social Work
  • While considering a theory or theories, social workers also understand its limitations too: Li m it at io n s o f Th e o ri e s Recognise that no single theory can explain everything: When a person engages in an action (or inaction) the reason for their behaviour can be rooted in a range of causes or motives. Related to the first point, recognise that some theoretical approaches just don't work with some people. Applying Brief Solution Focused Therapy can be really effective with some people. For other people, it leaves them cold. Always apply the value base to theory - much of the theory used in social care practice and social work is drawn from outside of the profession. Theory may have its roots in education, psychology or management. As such, it may not incorporate social work values and you should take responsibility for applying these Never be intimidated by theory. You use it every day.
  • Why do we need to apply social work theory to practice? Theories can help us to make sense of a situation. Using theory, we can generate ideas about what is going on, why things are as they are etc. For example the information obtained as part of an assessment can seem like a jumble of information - applying theory can help "make sense" of the information. In work with individuals, making use of the theories which may relate to their specific situation will give us more direction in our work with them. Using theory can give an explanation about why an action resulted in a particular consequence. This can help us review and possibly change our practice in an attempt to make the consequences more effective. It is clear then, that theory is important in practice - both for work with service users and for social work to be more valued in society. Using theory can help to justify actions and explain practice to service users, carers and society in general. The aim is that this will lead to social work becoming more widely accountable and ultimately more respected. Whilst individual social work theories have different purposes, using all kinds of theory in our work offers us, as social workers, some important things. 1 2 4 5 6 3
  • M O D E L S O F S O C I A L W O R K P R A C T I C E The vast majority of Social Workers function within one of four basic models of practice: the Personal Social Services Model (PSSM); the Social Welfare Model (SWM), the Social Development Model (SDM), and the New World Order Model (NWOM). The Personal Social Services Model The Personal Social Services Model (PSSM) of social development practice seeks to extend to people everywhere a range of basic social services that are needed to either restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning. The model's primary goals are: 1) to provide remedial and preventive services to individuals, families, and groups whose optimal social functioning is either temporarily impaired or inter- rupted; and 2) to extend social protection to population groups that are threatened by exploitation or degradation. The PSSM also seeks to ensure increased sensitivity and responsiveness on the part of human service providers to the special service needs of culturally diverse population groups. The Social Welfare Model The Social Welfare Model (SWM) of social work (development) practice is rooted in comparative social policy and comparative social research. The goals associated with the SWM include: 1) self help; 2) mutual aid; 3) humanitarianism; and 4) the establishment of effective, preferably universal, systems of formal social provision. The SWM also views developmental social welfare practice as part of the worldwide movement that seek to promote social security and social justice for people everywhere The Social Development Model The Social Development Model (SDM) has its origins in community organization and community development practice and does, therefore, promote the fullest possible participation of people in determining both the means and goals of social development. In doing so, the model seeks to provide a framework for understanding the underlying causes of human degradation, powerlessness, and social inequality every- where in the world. The ultimate goal of the SDM, however, is to guide collective action toward the elimination of all forms of violence and social oppression. The New World Order Model The New World Order Model (NWOM) of social development practice is closely associated with the writings of "visionary" economists, political scientists, legal scholars, and environmentalists (Brandt Commission, 1981). Major components of the NWOM are reflected in the fundamental social, political, and economic reforms in the existing international "order" that are being sought by the United Nations (UN, 1990; UN/ESCAP, 1992b), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP, 1997), World Bank 1997) and other leading international development assistance organizations. Elements of the NWOM also have been described by social work theoreticians. The NWOM asserts that the most serious problems confronting humanity are rooted in the fundamental inequalities that exist in the present world "order," i.e., in the system of international social, political, and economic institutions that govern relationships between nations and, within nations, between groups of people. In promoting its social change objectives, the NWOM calls for the creation of a "new world order" based on: 1) recognition of and respect for the unity of life on earth; 2) the minimization of violence; 3) the satisfaction of basic human needs; 4) the primacy of human dignity; 5) the retention of diversity and pluralism; and 6) the need for universal participation in the process of attaining worldwide social transformation..
  • Theory of Human Behavior Focus of Theory Main Concepts Regarding Human Behavior SYSTEMS THEORY Includes: Ecological Systems [Systems Perspective] Includes: Family Systems [Systems Perspective] How persons interact with their environment. How the family system affects the individual and family functioning across the life- span *Persons are in continual transaction with their environment *Systems are interrelated parts or subsystems constituting an ordered whole *Each subsystem impacts all other parts and whole system *Systems can have closed or open boundaries *Systems tend toward equilibrium *Individual functioning shapes family functioning and family systems can create pathology within the individual *Boundaries, roles, communication, family structure influence family functioning BEHAVIORISM & SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY Includes: Cognitive theory, Behavioral theory, Social Learning theory [Social Behavioral perspective] How individuals develop cognitive functioning and learn through acting on their environment *Imitation & reaction to stimulation shape behavioral learning *Knowledge is constructed through children physically and mentally acting on objects *Intelligence is an evolutionary, biological adaptation to environment *Cognitive structures enable adaptation & organization PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORY Includes: Classical psychodynamic theory, Ego-psychology, Object-relations theory, Self-psychology [Psychodynamic Perspective] How inner energies and external forces interact to impact emotional development *Unconscious and conscious mental activity motivate human behavior *Ego functions mediate between individual and environment *Ego defense mechanisms protect individuals from becoming overwhelmed by unacceptable impulses and threats *Internalized experiences shape personality development and functioning *Healing occurs through attention to transferences and the treatment relationship
  • PSYCHOSOCIAL DEVELOPMENTAL THEORY [Developmental Perspective] How internal & external forces shape life development, generally by life stages *Human development occurs in defined & qualitatively different stages that are sequential & may be universal *Individual stages of development include specific tasks to be completed & crises to be managed *Time & social context shape & individualize the meaning of life stages TRANSPERSONAL THEORY [Developmental Perspective; built upon Humanistic Perspective] How the spiritual and religious aspects of human existence can be understood How spiritual development builds upon and goes beyond bio- psychosocial development *Focuses on meaning, connection, and purpose *Some people achieve developmental level beyond the personal (ego- based) level into transpersonal (beyond self or ego) levels of consciousness and functioning. *There is an inherent tendency to express innate potentials for love, creativity, and spirituality *There is a difference between psychopathological phenomena and spiritual growth experiences SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY [Rational Choice Perspective] How persons minimize costs and maximize rewards through social exchange *Antecedents, consequences, personal expectations, and interpretation shape and maintain behavior in the present *Self-interest determines social exchange *Unequal resources determine power inequities and reciprocity is essential *Six propositions: --Success proposition --Stimulus proposition --Value proposition --Deprivation- satiation -- proposition --Aggression-approval proposition --Rationality proposition SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM [Social Constructionist Perspective] How socio cultural and historical contexts shape individuals and the creation of knowledge How individuals create themselves *All experience is subjective and human beings recreate themselves through an on-going, never static process *Knowledge is created through an interplay of multiple social and historical forces *Social interaction is grounded in language, customs, cultural and historical contexts *All phenomenon, including the sciences, must be approached with doubt in order to understand how people construct reality *Humans are self-interpreting beings Theory of Human Behavior Focus of Theory Main Concepts Regarding Human Behavior
  • Theory of Human Behavior Focus of Theory Main Concepts Regarding Human Behavior SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM [Social Constructionist Perspective] How the “self” is influenced and shaped by social processes and the capacity to symbolize *Human action is caused by complex interaction between and within individuals *Dynamic social activities take place among persons and we act according to how we define our situation *We act in the present, not the past *Individuals are actors on the stage and take on roles, interacting with the environment CONFLICT THEORY [Conflict Perspective] How power structures & power disparities impact people‟s lives *All societies perpetuate some forms of oppression & injustice and structural inequity *Power is unequally divided & some groups dominate others *Social order is based on manipulation and control by dominant groups *Social change is driven by conflict, with periods of change interrupting periods of stability *Life is characterized by conflict not consensus CONTINGENCY THEORY [Systems Perspective] How individuals & groups gain power, access to resources, & control over their lives, often through collective action *Groups are open, dynamic systems with both change and conflict present *Groups are stratified, with different and unequal levels of power and control *High discrimination and low privilege equals low opportunity *Oppression occurs when upward mobility is systematically denied *The social context must be critiqued and deconstructed *Assumptions for analyzing organizations: --there is no best way to manage organizations --there must be a match between the environment and internal resources --the design of the organization must fit with the environment
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