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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 fourth 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.

With a clear exposition of a coherent theory base that does justice to the multi-level and multi-dimensional nature of discrimination, Promoting Equality is 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). As Witcher so aptly puts it: The vision is not for a stagnant pool of sameness. Equality does not have to mean the same. It can also mean equivalent: different but of equal worth (2015, p. 11). This tendency to misinterpret the idea of equality can be seen to have had two sets of unfortunate and unhelpful consequences
Neil Thompson

2. Theoretical foundations

Abstract
At its most basic level, discrimination is simply a matter of identifying differences, and can be positive or negative. For example, in driving a car, being able to discriminate between lanes of traffic is a very important and positive attribute. However, negative discrimination involves not only identifying differences but also making a negative attribution - attaching a negative or detrimental label or connotation to the person, group or entity concerned. That is, it is a question of certain individuals or groups being discriminated against. As we shall see in Chapter 4, such discrimination does not occur at random - it follows clear social patterns in terms of class, race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and other such social divisions.
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. These issues are important in terms of both theory and practice. From a theoretical point of view, the questions addressed in this chapter can help to develop our understanding of some of the complexities surrounding inequality. In relation to practice, the issues discussed here have very significant implications for practitioners seeking to promote equality.
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 healthcare settings themselves, but also across the people professions more generally. It acts as a unifying theme for many forms of intervention by practitioners. It is a concept that is widely used but very hard to pin down in terms of what exactly we mean by it. 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. A central theme will be the status of health and related concepts, such as illness and sickness, as social constructions. My aim here, then, is to look beneath the surface of the everyday understandings of health and reveal some of the complex social and political processes that can be seen to operate. I therefore subject the notion of health to critical scrutiny and show it to be a very problematic term with regard to issues of discrimination, oppression and equality. The discussion introduces concepts from the sociology of health and the critique of the medical model, as well as drawing on existentialism as a theory base that helps us understand health as an ontological or existential concept, rather than purely a biological one.
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. In providing this overview, I am, of course, not attempting to play God and decide ultimately what is good or bad in terms of challenging discrimination and oppression. Such issues are political matters and are therefore, by their very nature, contested and open to multiple interpretations and evaluations.
Neil Thompson

7. The organizational context

Abstract
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. Organizations are dangerous places. They are major sites of power and conflicts of interest, and so considerable harm can result from the complex and potentially destructive processes that go on between individuals, between groups, and between organizations and their employees. This chapter cannot realistically address all the subtle intricacies and various combinations. However, what we can do in the space available is to explore a number of important issues relating to the organizational context of professional practice.
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. The ideas presented are intended as a stimulus to further discussion, debate and analysis and as a starting point for practitioners seeking guidance on how to proceed. Note, though, that I use the term starting point. There would clearly be problems involved in taking the suggestions here as rules to be followed or a blueprint to be adhered to. What this chapter offers is a set of ideas intended to facilitate and enhance reflective practice rather than act as a substitute for it.
Neil Thompson
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