A CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF SOCIAL WORK MODELS USING THE SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE

ARTHUR MILTON PIERSON, Fordham University

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine the assumptions of the contemporary profession of social work. The method of study selected is that outlined and described in Karl Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia (1936) as the sociology of knowledge. This method of approach was used to study three models employed by social workers: the medical, psychological, and functional models. These models were hypothesized as having influenced social work in both its theoretical and applied approaches to the individual and the social world. The ideological components of the three models were identified: the assumptions and approaches employed in the social work field represent the views of middle class individuals whose thinking reflects the socioeconomic interests of this professional group. The study identifies certain of these interests and questions whether these interests help social workers to adequately conceptualize their relationship to their clients.^ The data collection technique employed in this study was content analysis of social work books written by influential American social work professionals during the period 1940-1980. A sample of twenty-two books was selected. The sample was selected in three phases: a list of twenty influential social work authors was made up. Two leading social workers from Columbia and Fordham University were asked to confirm the list as representative of influential American social workers during the period stated. Two authors were added to the list. In the final stage two procedures were employed to test the representativeness of the sample. This included a systematic review of bibliographies of social work history books.^ After identifying the assumptions, concepts, and vocabulary of the three models, a content analysis was used to study the use of the models in the sample of social work books. The recording unit was the sentence or paragraph. The three models were thematically represented in each of the books reviewed. The medical and psychological models were found to be employed consciously and with purpose by the author. As hypothesized, the functional model was also found in each of the books but with a difference: this model constituted an implicit set of assumptions employed by the authors. Alternative models and approaches appeared infrequently. The use of competing models by the authors was discussed.^ The second part of the study is an examination of two alternative models to those employed by social workers. The social interactionist model is compared to the psychological model; the social conflict model is compared to the functional model. The comparisons were made for the purpose of conducting a "thought experiment." This experiment asks, in what ways the approach and practice of social work would change if it were based on a different set of assumptions. The implications of the interactionist and conflict models for social work practice are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Social Work

Recommended Citation

ARTHUR MILTON PIERSON, "A CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF SOCIAL WORK MODELS USING THE SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE" (January 1, 1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8123563.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8123563

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