Since the 1990s, postmodern theories have had a growing influence on the formal base of social work and have contributed to new understandings of, and approaches to, practice. In this chapter, we explain differences among ‘post’ theories, including postmodernism, poststructuralism and postcolonialism. These theories have been widely discussed in the social sciences and humanities since the 1960s, but their impact on the formal base of social work is relatively recent. Social workers need at least a basic acquaintance with these theories, given that they inform many of the disciplines on which our profession draws. While social work commentators debate the pros and cons of ‘post’ theories, a growing number of social workers apply these theories to a broad terrain of social work practices from casework to community work and policy practice. Indeed, despite some deserved bad press about the arcane language adopted by some postmodernists, we will see that social workers are already using many similar ideas to explain the complexities of power, identity and change processes.
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