Power, in social work, has been conceptualised through the application of particular narratives about selfhood. For example, the concept of antidiscriminatory social work practice relates to areas of difference in the individual (Thompson, 1993). In this area of scholarship, differences such as those brought about by gender, sexual identity, culture and race, disability, class, age and other aspects of identity are manifest in the exchange between social workers and their clients (Thompson, 1993). This chapter focuses on power, social work identity and selfhood. It is in understanding selfhood and identity as it relates to power and inequality in social work that new theoretical positions can emerge which help to critically frame and account for structural and individual oppression. As it stands, a critical and robust notion of selfhood is missing from existing social work literature (Dunk-West, 2013b). In this chapter, I propose that the Foucauldian appreciation of power, alongside the generative self offered by George Herbert Mead, have much to offer in developing a social work understanding of selfhood. In combining these theoretical traditions, we can re-imagine the social work role in relation to inequality and oppression. Despite the historical and geographical divide between Foucault and Mead, as we shall see, there are many synergies between what we might term the poststructural self and the Meadian perspective which is often aligned with symbolic interactionism.
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