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About this book

Practitioners working within the people professions have a legal and moral responsibility to promote equality wherever possible. This insightful book from a leading author provides a lucid guide to the complexities of inequality, and offers a sound foundation for practice that makes a positive contribution to equality, social justice and empowerment.
Now in its third edition, this highly successful text challenges oversimplified approaches to tackling discrimination and oppression. It combines an impressive blend of theoretical analysis and practice insights, all conveyed in the accessible and engaging style which has earned Neil Thompson his sterling reputation in the field.
This is an essential reading for students and practitioners within the helping professions, and managers and supervisors across the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Table of Contents

1. Equality and diversity in context

Abstract
This opening chapter in many ways sets the scene for what is to come in the rest of the book. The social scientific concept of ‘equality’ has a long history of being oversimplified as a result of being too closely identified with the commonsense view of equality as meaning ‘sameness’. To promote equality has, for many people, meant to promote sameness, to see difference as a problem to be solved or a difficulty to be avoided (see Practice Focus 1.1 below). This tendency to misinterpret the idea of equality can be seen to have had two sets of unfortunate and unhelpful consequences:
1.
Some people have rejected the idea of promoting equality, regarding it as an illegitimate goal as they recognize that trying to make everybody the same is not socially useful and is personally disempowering for individuals.
 
2.
Others have regarded promoting sameness as a legitimate goal to pursue, and have therefore taken steps to reduce or remove difference, in the mistaken view that this is a legitimate and helpful thing to do.
 
Neil Thompson

2. Theoretical foundations

Abstract
The term ‘foundations’ in the title of this chapter has been deliberately chosen for two reasons:
1.
It reflects the need to have a firm footing on which to base our analysis, our plans and our actions. It is in this sense that theory underpins practice. Theory reflects our underlying knowledge base on the basis of which we ‘theorize’ practice — that is, use concepts and frameworks of understanding to make sense of the practice situations we encounter.
 
2.
It emphasizes the fact that theories of inequality, discrimination and oppression are still at a relatively early stage in their development, particularly in terms of how they can be of use in practice situations. There is a great deal of theory building that remains to be done.
 
Neil Thompson

3. Power

Abstract
Much has been written on the subject of power, and so it would clearly be unrealistic to attempt a comprehensive analysis within the space available in this chapter. I shall therefore limit myself to a consideration of what I see as a number of key issues in terms of power and its role in relation to inequality, discrimination and oppression. I shall begin by asking the basic question of: ‘What is power?’, before exploring theories of power; language, discourse and power; the relationship between power and oppression; and, finally, the key concept of empowerment.
Neil Thompson

4. Discrimination and oppression

Abstract
Promoting equality, as we have seen, involves countering discrimination and oppression. This chapter therefore examines:
  • the relationship between discrimination and oppression;
  • the various processes by which discrimination occurs;
  • the ways in which discrimination can be categorized; and
  • the forms of oppression that arise as a result of the various categories of discrimination.
Neil Thompson

5. Health and the medicalization of inequality

Abstract
The concept of health is one that is usually taken for granted not only in health care settings themselves, but also across the helping professions more generally. It acts as a unifying theme for many forms of intervention by practitioners. Indeed, Aggleton (1990) has made the important point that health is one of those terms that are commonly used but prove to be very difficult when it comes to defining or explaining them. This chapter does not seek to provide a definitive account or explanation, as it is recognized that health is a fluid concept open to a wide variety of interpretations.
Neil Thompson

6. Learning from the past

Abstract
Attempts to challenge discrimination and oppression are, of course, not new. Very many efforts have been made to promote equality, some of which have brought some degree of success, while others have not. My aim in this chapter is not to chart the historical development of such efforts, but rather, more modestly, to identify a range of approaches that have been adopted and experimented with, focusing in particular on the problems and difficulties associated with them. My intention, then, is to present a summary of various strategies and tactics that have been utilized in an attempt to promote equality so that our current and future efforts do not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ or repeat the mistakes of the past.
Neil Thompson

7. The organizational context

Abstract
Mullins (2009) makes the important point that:
We live in an organisational world. Organisations of one form or another are a necessary part of our society and serve many important needs … It is important, therefore, to understand how organisations function and the pervasive influences which they exercise over the behaviour of people. (p. 3) Understanding the organizational context of professional practice can therefore be seen as an important matter, such is the influence of organizational structures, cultures and practices. This is particularly the case in relation to inequality, as the organization in which we work can be an asset in tackling discrimination through supportive policies and practices, or it can be a major source of such discrimination and can exacerbate existing inequalities.
Neil Thompson

8. Conclusion: strategies for promoting equality

Abstract
In this concluding chapter, my aim is to present an overview of the various strategies that can be called upon in an effort to challenge discrimination and oppression and promote equality. This is not by way of providing a set of formulas to follow or definitive statements to close off the debate, as that would be both reductionist and dogmatic. My intention, rather, is to explore what I see as the basis of good practice in terms of the steps that can be taken to develop emancipatory practice and to incorporate equality issues into all aspects of professional practice.
Neil Thompson
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