JOURNAL ISSUE 8

2003/2004

 

 

Horst Sing
Katholische Universität Eichstätt – Ingolstadt
Fakultät für Soziale Arbeit, Eichstätt
Germany

 


SOCIAL WORK UNDER CONDITIONS OF SCARCITY

Introduction

 

To work under "conditions of scarcity" is a daily experience for many social workers: scarcity of instruments and resources on the part of the clients to manage or to improve their conditions of life, scarcity of instruments and resources on the part of the social workers to help the clients, and scarcity of instruments and resources of the society to maintain and to build up structures which are suitable to overcome or to prevent at least the most scandalous phenomens of social exclusion. It is evident that in the global society 1.3 billion people live in unacceptable conditions of social exclusion and further, that 100 million of theses are not living in the so-called Third World but in the developed countries of the First and Second World.

Even (or especially) in those countries where the systems of social security and the associations and institutions of social work are highly developed, where the education of social workers is "academic", where scientific disciplines dealing with social work seem to be established, and where the social standing of the social workers is not low, the complaints of social workers working under "conditions of scarcity" seem to be a part of their professional identity and often of their personal identity. Social workers often think that they are somewhat like Atlas of the ancient Greek myth who shouldered the world. Alternatively, they think that they are — like Sisyphe — determined to do something which can never be achieved. It is almost common opinion and that they face a kind of scarcity which other professions do n ot have.

Yet, what kind of scarcity do social workers really face in contast to others? Whilst there are many treatises concerning the consequences of the feeling of powerlessness and helplessnes for the social workers as individuals — e.g. burn-out syndrome — there is very little research concerning the scarcity which could be behind the particular phenomena of scarcity they experience every day. Is there a special kind of fundamental scarcity which is independent from the subjective feeling of the individual social worker and which is different from the scarcity which other professions have to face? If there is, the question is of of how to deal with this issue.

I base my arguments on two starting points on two different levels. The first starting point is the thesis that the professional core of social work is — inspite of its religious and subjective roots which are still important — an integral part of the democratic welfare state and therefore a public affair which is controlled by the norms and the social processes of the democratic society. In sociological terminology: social work is a (specific) "functional system", an institution or an instrument of the democratic society to release and discharge in specific sectors and in a specific way from its "collective self-binding" to provide conditions for the political and social inclusion of all citizens respectively to abolish established structures which produce social exclusion. Social work is therefore a public business; it refers to the ratio of democracy and is embedded not only in the frame of a nation, but more and more in the global society.


To define it’s function in more detail, social work is — after the social security system, which on the basis of general legal rights or entitlements should prevent or release from social exclusion — the second (public) system of a democratic society in this field. It deals with those problems of social exclusion which are specific and individual and cannot be generalized, such as for instance, individual dt behaviour, family problems, indeptedness etc.


The second starting point is the thesis that there are two essentially different kinds of scarcity. Analogous to the difference between a bivalent and a polyvalent logic, I distinguish between a bivalent scarity and a polyvalent scarcity: bi-valent scarcity is a scarcity which can be defined by " to be or not to be" or "to have or not to have"; polyvalent scarcity is a scarcity which is part of a process producing — besides positive effects — constantly negative side effects caused by "blind spots" on the part of decision makers and those who are concerned, and by lack of knowledge. The negative side effects can only be minimized or overcome by non-trivial strategies and interventions in the social context and by mutual agreements. Bi-valent and polyvalent scarcity are coupled in all social situations, but it is necessary to distinguish between them if one wants to avoid falling into the trap of trivial evaluations and analyses.

I deal with the issue of my theme in three steps: in the first step I outline the emergence of scarcity in dealing with the problem of social exclusion in the second half of the 20th century and its transformation from a problem of bivalent scarcity to a problem of polyvalent scarcity. In the second step I claim — using the example of social work — that we could describe this polyvalent scarcity as a consequence of the "blind spots "of the functional systems of society, including the "blind spots" of social work. Lastly I present an example of a strategy to diminish the negative consequences of the polyvalent scarcity for dealing with the problem of social exclusion, which more recently has become a problem in the system of democratic societies — to which, of course, there is no alternative.


1. The emergence of polyvalent scarcity in the fight against social exclusion

 

If we understand social work as a professional system of the democratic society to release it from its "collecive self-binding" — that all citizens should be included in society in so far as they could participate in an appropriate manner in the performances of the functional systems of society — it is not the subjective experience or meaning of scarcity of social workers or individuals which could be a reliable starting point to approach the conditions of scarcity under which social workers have to work. The problem is one of who of the millions of social workers that are working all over the world should we ask. Further, if we succeed in taking an opinion poll, what would be the definitions we should empasize in order to get a starting point accepted by all?

If we define social work as a public professional instrument of the democratic society (as an integral part of the welfare state) to avoid or to overcome social exclusion in specific sectors and by specific strategies and methods, it is a part of the society and not a place of practice or knowledge outside or above it. Therefore, the point of view of social workers may be important and interesting, but this is not a point of view outside the society or above. So it is reasonable to tackle the issue of "social work under conditions of scarcity" in the context of the problem of social exclusion in democratic societies".


In all periods of history, the problem of "social exclusion" was a complicated and crucial problem for every society — except for those societies which "included" everybody in their totalitarian system and/or who fought a war of extermination against those who were discriminated as not belonging to the group which was considered to be included. There were different definitions and assumptions concerning, what exclusion is, and different models and strategies to cope with the problem of social exclusion. In the pre-modern periods and societies, for instance, the criteria used to define social exclusion were different from those used in the highly industrialized societies and secularizing democracies of the modern and post-modern periods. Concerning the issue of "social work under conditions of scarcity", there are some decicions in the history of the dealing with the problem of social exclusion which have become decisive for the situation today.

First of all, there was a cluster of decisions, events and conflicts which resulted in, that the modern democracies did not accept the concept of a state which confines itself to the task of finishing the "bellum omnium contra omnes" (famous dictum by Thomas Hobbes, "The war against all") and guaranteeing the physical survival of its citizens. Furthermore, they did not limit their self-understanding only to build-up procedures and instruments to find out what the political will of the people was in the wake of the slogan " of the people, by the people and for the people", but they assumed responsibility to open the way to the "pursuit of happiness" of all members of the state. In other words, the modern democracies understand themselves as a kind of "welfare state", whatever its concretisation might be in detail. Thus, the problem of "social exclusion" and of scarcity in dealing with it, is a problem of each democratic nation, and as democracy is understood as an universal model for society without reasonable alternatives, the problem of social exclusion and the problem of scarcity are problems of the global society as well.

The second milestone was a cluster of decisions, events and conflicts which led to the problem of social exclusion beeing sufficiently managed by systems of social security, by non-violent social conflicts, by the cooperation between the main actors of society, etc. This led to the ideology of the "Welfare State"which was established during heavy conflicts with the protagonists of the authoritarian state on the one side and with the protagonists of a socialist revolution on the other side, which was expected to resolve the problem of social exclusion by a completely new social system containing all elements of society.

The breakthrough of the idea of the "Welfare State" took place in the first decades after World War II — inspite of or because of the rise of a bipolar world and the risk of the transformation of the cold war into a nuclear war. The rise of the welfare state was tremendous and unexpected, and this was valid for social work too.

In comparison to the desolate situation in the other parts of the world ? dictatorship of the communist "nomenclatura", economy of shortages in the socialist countries, and mass poverty in the so-called Third World — the model of the welfare state seemed to be the best of all conceivable and the best of all real existing models of society to establish a reasonable balance between the old antagonist forces of capital and labour, rulers and ruled, etc.

What kept the welfare state of this period together, was a wide consensus concerning the fundamentals of society: no reasonable alternative to democracy and the ideology of the welfare state ("Zivilreligion"), efficient functional systems of the society, which understood themselves as promoters of the "bonum commune" ("economy and progress have to serve humanity"), social behavior of individuals which does not differ too much from the general values of solidarity, social commitment, self-discipline, and last, but not least, a political class and public institutions which are able to "controll" centrifugal trends due to the "egoism" ("Eigensinnigkeit") of the functional systems of society.


Whilst the main problem concerning the development of the emerging global society — in spite of the cold war — seemed to be the non-violent collapse of the socialist block and the improvement in the conditions of life of the people in the Third World, the "Club of Rome" published "The Limits to Growth" in 1972 and made transparent other problems of the development of the emerging global society: "The Limits to Growth" questionned the general assumptions that the increasing global exploitation of non-renewable resources and the increasing pollution of the environment could, in one way or another, be balanced by the same model of industrialization which caused these damages. If one accepted the conclusions of the "Club of Rome", this meant that not only are the "limits too growth" a fundamental but even a system inherent problem of industrialization. In a second step of the argumentation, it meant that all megatheories and megapatterns of social development, which were based on a linear progress of the "industrial complexe" — capitalist as well as Marxist patterns — had become principally obsolete. It bevame more and more obvious that the problem og social exclusion was fundamenatlly a problem of polyvalent scarcity. Some prominent examples may be sufficient to demonstrate this.

With the increase of the differenciation of the industrial society, particularly by the functional systems of society (econonomy, science, etc.), and the simultaneous increase of the erosion of traditional institutions of social relationship — of the traditional form of the family, for instance — a "new truth" became increasingly more evident: the idea of the welfare state was embedded in a society which was based on paradoxes or centrifugal trends which overtaxed the capacity of the welfare state to fulfill its collective self-binding to guarantee the inclusion of all members on a high level. On the one hand, "modernisation" did not so much imply a linear progress of a better life for all or the improvement of the concrete "conditions of life" for all (the "Lebenswelten" of Habermas), but rather the improvement of the conditions of life of those who were able to profit from the advantages of specific functional systems — high technology for instance — which, at least for a short time, could score "big points" in the increasing global competition. On the other hand it became more and more obvious that "modernisation" at the level of individual self-understanding was not so much solidarity, but emancipation and individualisation. Thus, the problem of social exclusion slowly developed in another semantic context. In order to be included in functional systems of society, one has to accept being excluded from others, and social exclusion — which means an unacceptable exclusion in the light of the norms of the society — is often a rational product of tragic and irrational choices or vice versa. A brief glance at the issue of unemployment in almost all countries would confirm this.

The sudden — peaceful — death of the German Democratic Republic — marked by the breakdown of the Berlin wall and seen on television by billions of people — which at the same time marked the end of the agony of the Soviet Block, interrupted the discussion about the crisis of the welfare state in western democracies for a few years. The legitimate joy about the end of the locking in of millions of people led to a wide-spread euphoria concerning the consequences of the "victory of the democracy" and the perspectives for the fight against social exclusion in the wake of the new wave of globalization.

Under these conditions it was difficult to realize that the 1.3 billion heavily excluded people who registered in the reports of the UN in the early 1990’s and of which some 100 million were living in the industrialized countries of the North, subsequently became now the undoubtedly socially excluded of the universal and global democratic system, on the empirical level as well as on the moral level. After the collapse of the only existing political global alternative to democracy, there was no longer a reasonable possibility of externalizing the problem of social exclusion. So the crucial question became whether the democracy would really be able to fulfill the expectations it produced for at least two centuries under the slogan: "liberté, égalité, fraternité".


In other words, until the collapse of the soviet block, the enormous social asymmetries of the globalizing world had been widely accepted as a common task for a new period of history (e.g. after the"end of history") and moreover as a welcomed opportunity for (the western model of) democracy to prove its advantages. However when the first years of euphoria were over — the "blossoming landscapes" in the countries of transformation" of the former block of the "real existing socialism" did not appear as promised and as expected — these asymmetries turned out to be not simply problems of public budgets, available capital or investments. On the one hand for instance, the prophecies of the benefits of the market became louder and louder, while on the other hand, the negative side effects, in the wake of the growing incompetence of the governments respectively of the political classes to controll the processes of globalization in a reasonable way, became more and more frightening, because the analyses of the situation produced more uncertainty than before. Furthermore what was new, was that even the scientific analyses became part of this uncertainty respectively contributed to establish a general feeling to live in an "society of risk" ("Risikogesellschaft") .

In the context of our theme we could say: at least with the new waves of globalization at the end of the 20th century it became obvious that the problem of social exclusion had to be analyzed and handled not only under conditions of bivalent scarcity, but also under conditions of polyvalent scarcity, namely under conditions of the lack of knowledge on all levels.


It is not an exaggeration to state that the above analysis of the conditions of social work is a prominent example which shows the emergence and the perception of polyvalent scarcity in the fight against social exlusion. A short overview of the history of social work in Germany may elucidate this.

2. The perception of polyvalent scarcity in social work

A brief glance at genesis of the modern social work shows that on the one hand its origins and roots — "faith based" individual help or help by small groups for people in need — continued to be an integral part of its self-understanding. On the other hand, however, it became more and more a public instrument to release the democratic society from its "collective self-binding" to avoid/overcome social exclusion for all citizens. Thus, the transformation of the "care of (for) the poor" into a profession controlled by scientific theories and rational standards did not take place without contradictions and conflicts.

The results now still very ambiguous. One example may be sufficient to explain the beginning of this ambiguity. When, in the first two decades of the 20th century it became necessary to organize the education of social workers in Germany, the leading promoters of social work, such as for example Alice Salomon, refused to establish it at university. The reasons for this decision were, that the education of social workers should be orientated toward man "as an integral being" and that education at university would devide man into scientific objects of sociology, psycholgy, etc. The famous sociologue Max Weber did not consider himself too good for teaching social workers, but the protagonists of social works were too anxious to entrust the education of future social workers to the universities. So, at least in Germany during the first decades of the professionalization of social work, the theorectical control of social work remained in the frame of the ideology of the associations of social welfare, and hence in the belief of a growing solidarity of the democratic society. It was not exposed to scientific discussions questioning the fundamentals of the ideology of the welfare state, the already emerging "conseqences of modernity" (e.g. emancipation of the "autonomous" individual) and the change of conditions of life in the wake of industrialization. Even in countries where the education of social workers took place at the university from the beginning, the difference between social work and the scientific community grew increasingly greater. This happened in spite of the unquestionable progress of the professionalization of the practical social work, especially on the field of single case management ("Einzelfallhilfe").


A short-term advantage — though in the long run a contraproductive phenomenon — might have been that in many countries — for instance, in Germany — the reputation of professional altruism prevented social work for a long time from being controlled and heavily critizised by public opinion and the social sciences. Embedded in the boom of the economy ("Wirtschaftswunder") during the1950s and 1960s of the 20th century, there was a wide-spread belief in the development of the welfare state. However, social workers became more and more conscious that the succes in dealing with the problem of social exclusion was mostly on account of social policy, whilst the "unsolved rest" of the problems of social exclusion were attributed to social work. In some countries social workers operated something like a secularized "Salvation Army", while in other countries they were the "footmen" of mighty social associations, and in yet others they were at the bottom of the hierarchy of the "administration" of social exclusion — or sometimes all of these together.
So, during the tremendous boom of the welfare state and of the professional social work carried out after World War II in many western democracies, this ambiguity became more and more of a problem, one which was discussed intensively in practical social work as well as in the scientific community. Especially, the establishment of a new type of colleges in Europe — universities of applied social sciences ("Fachhochschulen") — led, in many countries, to heated debates concerning the identity of practical social work and the identity of a "specific" scientific discipline of social work. The intention was to release social work from the suspicion that it would be a kind of residuum of former times that is not absolutely necessary for the ongoing modernisation of society, at least not on the level of a "specific"scientific control or done by social workers who have to complete an academic education.

In particular, two issues of this discussion are relevant to the theme of this article. The first one is the question of whether social work is a "functional system of society", for instance, in the sense that it does something to replace society in doing something that is indispensable for society but what the society is not able to do as a whole. Medicine, science, justice, economy, etc. are such "functional systems". If social work could be defined as a specific functional system of society, which sees something and does something, in representation of the society, something that the society as a whole is not able to see and to do, then it would be released from the traditional and often annoying dependence on the good will of society and from the suspicion of being a professional system of the second league.

However, the discussion made it obvious that functional systems, in the sense of the "Systemthorie“ of Luhmann, for instance, are "autopoietic". They may "represent" the society in terms of specific responsibilities, but they are not able to do this in the comprehensive sense of a "universal reason" which is still claimed by the political system, for instance, in the wake of the ideology of the welfare state. Rather, they are guided by specific "codes" — for instance, to gain money or to loose money in the economic system or to gain power or to loose power in the functional system of politics. So they may not necessarily fulfill their function in the way that is intended and believed by the people. They may see what they see and do what they do and may therefore have a function as something indispensable, i.e. what the society needs but is not able to do, yet it is very well possible that they do not see and do not do what the society might expect: the "system of justice", for instance, may guarantee in a certain way "peace under the law". However it does not administer law in the name of justice, but "in the name of the people "and it is often only able to finish a "causa" by certain oportunistic strategies ("Kronzeugenregel"). Further this is valid for all other "functional systems of society".

For some of them it is not very difficult to apologize for these "blind spots", but for others such as social work it is more difficult. For the theme of this article it is important to know that the acceptance of this theory of "functional systems" means that all are embedded in a society of a "polyvalent scarcity" and that they are reproducing polyvalent scarcity too. So the gain of reputation for social work by the defining it as a "functional system" may be great, but the gain of "ontologic security" is not. A "functional system" has to provide valuable results and valuable results have to be atttributed to it in the public opinion, though by which means is another question.



The discussion about a "specific" discipline of social work in the same direction leads under similar premises. Scientific disciplines are generally supposed to be the ultimate form of the organisation of science. If scientific efforts are supposed to be a honorable part of a discipline they have become undoubtedly part of the scientific nobility. Scientific disciplines are not created by something like an accreditation by the scientific community. It is a long process of searching for acknowledgment by the other disciplines before, for instance, the "subject matters", "methods", results, and particularly the "level of theoretical integration" (Heckhausen) of scientific constructions lead to the establishment of a discipline. Finally it is a question of confidence, which the scientific community may or may not give.

Since scientific disciplines are supposed to be segmentary — that means "equal" in quality — the problem of reputation is only resolved when this confidence is somewhat established. There may be disciplines which may be more relevant for the society than others, but ultimately science is science. Thus, there is no doubt that the acknowledgement of a "specific scientific discipline of social work" would be a tremendous success for professional social work, but this does not mean that by this it would gain something like an easy partner for advocacy in the scientific community, for instance by providing more "ontologic" security.

The transformation of practical social work in a "functional system of society" and the transformation of its theoretical control in a specific scientific discipline may give parity of treatment and reputationto social work in common with other professional sectors of society such as, for instance, health care or education, but this implies the admission that it works under conditions of polyvalent scarcity — as do other actors of society.

If one begins to reflect on earlier or more recent social work one is confronted with the fact that it is embedded in a democratic global society, to which there is no alternative, but which has the immanent problem to produce at the same time social inclusion and social exclusion and of which the real existing social asymmetries are so big and so complex that bivalent strategies alone do not function to overcome them: every strategy is at the same time part of the problem too and therefore there is principally no way out of the problem of polyvalent scarcity. Thus, the problem is how to deal with it.


3.Social work under conditions of scarcity: conclusions

 

If one accepts this analysis, there are mainly two possibilities to react to. The first is to take it as a confirmation of the still wide-spread opinion that social work is essentially (individual) case management or community building in a very narrow frame. Further, in the wake of this a "specific" scientific discipline of social work, for instance, would have to to deal mainly with social excluded individuals, yet from their conditions of life no conclusions would be possible on behalf of the structural "phenomena" and "events" of society which are the cause of this social exclusion. In the wake of this argumentation, social work would be "lost" in the complexity of society and if it has to work under conditions of polyvalent scarcity, this has to be accepted as a kind of fate which cannot be overcome. As polyvalent scarcity is a problem which is inherent to democracy and as social exclusion is due to a great extent to the "blind spots" of all functional systems of society, particularly of those of the "political system", it would not be reasonable to overload social work with the problem of polyvalent scarcity: the tremendous social asymmetries in the global society might be ethically unacceptable, but where is an adequate approach to social work and of a "specific" science of social work to the huge yo-yo game of the global society run by "functional systems" which cannot be controlled and "run" by billions of individuals which are even not known?


In the wake of this argumentation, however, social work would not only remain in a secondary position in the sense of a secularizised Salvation Army or of "faith-based" groups for social help. Instead, it would fall in a new trap of marginalization or into a backward situation: a social work which reduces its "double mandate" — being a part of the welfare state and at the same time defending the legitime interests of its clients, on a professional, but essentially personal relationship, analogous to the intervention of psycholgy, between social worker and client on the basis of bi-valent scarcity of the rest of the world is indeed "lost" in the complexity of society. It would not be able to contribute to diminish one of the main problems of the fight against social exlusion, namely that the welfare state is obviously not sufficiently able "to observe the effects of the functional systems of society and to evaluate the own interventions in a somewhat reliable manner". As social work on behalf of the fight against individual social exclusion, marks something like an offcial limit between the "marked space" of the democratic society and the "unmarked space" , it is not only a professional system of social work (whatever this might be in details) but also a crucial place of self-control of a democratic society on behalf of its performances and failures in the development of its social, political and cultural development. It is the fight against individual social exclusion is much more than a problem of solidarity, it is a problem of democracy.

So, even if one could suppose with some valuable reasons that social work actually achieves important performances in the field of avoiding/overcoming social exclusion by its highly developed professional standards mainly on behalf of "not generalized individual cases", this would not be sufficient if one accepts the undeniable fact that it is embedded in "polyvalent scarcity" of a global society. In the long run it would lead to a kind of autism, because it would remain focused on its traditional problems of bivalent scarcity consequnces.

If one wants to break out from this "blind alley" it is necessary "to turn the tables" and to try to use the polyvalent scarcity respectively the incompleteness of knowledge, etc. which is common to all functional systems of society and to all scientific disciplines and which is the cause of a " general dissent of orientation" as an opportunity and to overcome the still wide-spread belief that it is a scourge one has to endure. Of course, the empirical approach of social work to the problems of social exclusion are the conditions of life of its clients respectively of socially excluded individuals and it would be an illusionary security to promise a strategy of a comprehensive "trickle up" which could avoid/overcome social exclusion a more effectively than until now.


However, if we accept the thesis of the possibility of a positive utilization of the general dissent of orientation as a fundamental challenge to revise obsolete standpoints, it becomes possible that (even or just) in a (global) society which consists of hundreds of "self referential" systems with specific "codes" and which consists of billions of individuals each of whom has a specific perception of the social reality, one could see and do things in the fight against social exclusion that one was not able to see and to do until now.

In the wake of the Schimank , for instance, we could accept as the approach the assumption that there are"substantial (essential) interests" or "specific interests of functional systems" and personal interests of individuals which could be partly changed in "reflexive interests". "Substantial interests respectively "specific interests of a system" are those which are accepted during the process of the emergence of a system respectively in the biography of an individual. "Reflexive interests" are those which emerge or are perceived when substantial interests are analysed in the light of the interests of other systems or of general conditions of society.


As "social systems" and "psychic systems" are connected or coupled in society it is, of course, possible or even necessary that inspite of their specific ("autopoietic") perception and inspite of their specific interests "intersystemic consenses" may be established between different actors. It is possible, for instance, that in the process of development in accordance with the slogan "I want what you want" a status quo can be changed and modified by active operations and specific strategies. This may lead to "intersystemic consenses" which are able to improve social integration without falling back on trivial theories and strategies and without running into the post-modern trap of "what ever one likes" and "anything goes". This may lead to the possibility to "see things which one cannot see until now" and " to do things which one cannot do until now".

If one does not ignore that social exclusion is a fundamental system inherent problem of democracy, this is (absolutely) necessary if there could be important progresses in the fight against social exclusion in the global society which is particularly a problem of polyvalent scarcity. There is no doubt that social work is a profession (or a system) which is more closely connected with the conditions of life than all other functional system of society and with the personality of the excluded "psychic" systems which are the victims of the "negative side effects" of development.
Some fundamental preconditions for more social integration without giving up the fundamental intersystemic differences are that the substantial and specific interests of the actors are clear, that they know that they are all in the position of polyvalent scarcity, that social exclusion is an immanent problem for each democratic society, that all actors are included in some way in the global society and that there exists a possibility of a strategy for "intersystemic consenses" on behalf of the approach to problems of social exclusion that are unknown until now.

What is an indispensable precondition too, is the decisive will to want to learn to see things one could not see until now and to do things one could not do until now. Polyvalent scarcity means incompleteness and in face of the tremendous problems of social exclusion in the global society it is necessary not only to see the (positive) substantial interests and performances which one has. They may be based on an illusionary security and they may therefore block each other. The number of examples in the field of social work and development work is huge and they waste financial and human resources. The (mutual) acknowledgement of incompleteness is a useful strategic starting point and an indispensable theoretical approach to new "intersystemic consenses", provided that it is not an alibi for resignation and fatalism: " I want what you want, because I don't want what you don' t want" is a appropriate entry in the efforts to overcome the depressing status quo in many fields of the fight against social exclusion.


One of the most crucial problems for practical social work to get valuable partners for the the formation of "intersystemic consenses" is the lack of plausible pragmatic explanations for the meaning of its "double mandate". This is valid mutatis mutandis for a "specific" scientific discipline of social work on behalf of its acknowledgment by other disciplines. The central problem of the "double mandate" in the context of our argumentation is a double one: it is not so much the question of "When should the intervention of social work begin?" ("What is the case?), but the question "When has the intervention to be finished and why?".

These questions are central not only because of the defence against the suspicion of the notorious "suspicion of ideology" or "self fulfilling prophecy", but especially because of the necessity for a democratic society to know where the limits of the intervention of the welfare state are. For some years there has been an intensive debate about "output" or "outcome" of the intervention of social work and about methods of evaluation and controlling, but the horizon of this strategy is too narrow when it does not take into account that the "substantial interests of social work and clients are principally different and that they have to be clarified if one wants to build up "intersystemic consenses" in the field of avoidance and overcoming. As these consenses are only possible via the formulation of "reflexive interests", which go beyond the single "cases of social work", in principle one has to go to the "end of the flagpole". This is the system inherent polyvalent scarcity of democratic societies and the incompleteness of science social on behalf of dealing with social exclusion.

If practical social work has the courage to accept the challenge of polyvalence and if a "specific" scientific discipline develops a "level of theoretical integration" which accepts the challenge of the incompleteness of scientific knowledge, crucial "phenomena" and "events" in the field of social exclusion appear in a new light especially social work and a "specific" scientific discipline of it.



Notes


i. See for instance, the UNDP: Human Development Report 1993, New York/Oxford 1993.

ii
. There may be a third "system", which refers to those cases of need which cannot be treated by the public and professional social work because there are not yet professional strategies and methods available, such as in some neuralgic sectors of exclusion in the rich nations or in the field of the grass-roots level in the so-called Third World, where for instance, the public social work is often more on the side of a repressive public administration or not present at all in rural areas where the most excluded are living.

 

iii. See, for instance, Niklas Luhmann: Inklusion und Exklusion, in: Niklas Luhmann, Soziologische Aufklärung, Vol. 6. Die Soziologie und der Mensch, Opladen 1995, Westdeutscher Verlag, pp. 247-264. Martin Kronauer: Exklusion. Die Gefährdung des Sozialen im hochentwickelten Kapitalismus Frankfurt a. M.2002, Campus. Verlag. In my paper, "social exclusion" is understood as a kind of "marginalized participation" of individuals in the performances of the functional systems of society, which is incompatible with the fundamental norms of a democratic society (e.g. human rights).

iv . The best example is perhaps the problem of unemployment. See, for instance, Jeremy Rifkin: The End of Work. New York 1995, Putnam.

 

v. So the famous (or notorious) dictum of the German chancellor Helmut Kohl shortly after the breakdown of the Berlin wall, on behalf of the future of Eastern Germany.

vi. Ulrich Beck: Risikogesellschaft. Auf dem Weg in eine andere Moderne. Frankfurt a.M. 1986, Suhrkamp.

vii . See the concise résumé of the complicated debate in Michael Bommes & Albert Scherr: Soziologie der Sozialen Arbeit. Eine Einführung in Formen und Funktionen organisierter Hilfe. Weinheim/München 2000, Juventa.

viii . Niklas Luhmann: Soziale Systeme. Grundriß einer allgemeinen Theorie. Frankfurt a.M.1987, Suhrkamp.

ix . Heinz Heckhausen: Discipline and Interdisciplinarity. In OECD: Problems of Teaching and Research in Universities. Paris 1972: OECD, Centre of Education. Research and Innovation, pp. 83-89.

x . Niklas Luhmann: Politische Theorie im Wohlfahrtsstaat. München/Wien 1981, p. 189.

xi. Helmut Stichweh: Die Weltgesellschaft. Frankfurt a.M.2000, Suhrkamp p. 93.

 

xii. The NGOs in the so-called Third World are products of a fundamental incapacity of the state and of the democracy in these countries in the fight against social exclusion. The social associations in the so-called First World are ? as, for instance, in Germany - intended partners in the frame of a social doctrine on the basis of subsidiarity and partizipation. The increase of self-help groups and the emergence of semi-professional NGOs in the field of avoidance/overcoming of individual social exclusion shows, however, that the "unmarked space", even in the rich countries, is no more a "quantité négligeable".

xiii . Uwe Schimank: Spezifische Interessenkonsense trotz generellem Orientierungsdissens. Ein Integrationsmechanismus polyzentrischer Gesellschaften. In: Hans-Joachim Giegel (ed): Kommunikation und Konsens in modernen Gesellschaften. Frankfurt a.M., 1992, Suhrkamp, pp. 236-275.



References

Beck, Ulrich (1986): Risikogesellschaft. Auf dem Weg in eine andre Moderne. Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp

 

Bommes, Michael & Scherr, Albert (2000): Soziologie der Sozialen Arbeit. Eine Einfürung in Formen und Funktionen organisierter Hilfe. Weinheim/München. Juventa

 

Heckhausen, Heinz (1972): Discipline and Interdisciplinarity. In: OECD: problems of Teaching and Research in Universities. Paris, OECD, Centre of Education. Research and Innovation, pp. 83-89.

 

Kronauer, Martin (2002): Exclusion. Die Gefährdung des Sozialen im hochentwickelten

 

Kapitalismus. Franfurt a.M., Campus Verlag.

 

Luhmann, Niklas (1981): politische Theorie im Wohlfartsstaat. Må¨nchen/Wien.

 

Luhmann, Niklas (1987): Soziale Systeme. Grundriss einer allgemeinen Theorie. Franfurt a.M., Suhrkamp.

 

Luhmann, Niklas (1995): Inklusion und Exklusion. In: Muklas Lumann, Soziologische Aufklärung, Vol. 6. Die Soziologie und der Mensch. Opladen, Westdeutscher Verlag, pp 247-264.

 

Meadows, Donella H. (ed.) (1972): The Limits to Growth. A report for the Club of Rome’s project on the predicament of mankind. New York, Universe Books

 

Rifkin, Jeremy (1995): The end of work, New York, Putnam.

 

Schimank, Uwe (1992): Spezifische Interessenkonsense trotz generellem orientierungsdissens. Ein Integrationsmechanismus polyzentrischer Gesellschaften. In: Hans-Joachim Giegel (ed.), Kommunikation und Konsens in modernen Gesellschaften. Franfurt a.M., Suhrkamp

 

Stichweh, Helmut (2000): Die Weltgesellschaft. Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp.

 

UNDP (1993): Human Development Report 1993. New York, Oxford.



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