• Power and Social Work in the United Kingdom

      Gilbert, Tony; Powell, Jason; Plymouth University; University of Chester (Sage, 2010-01-08)
      This article explores relations of power in social work using insights drawn from the critical ‘toolkit’ emanating from work of French philosopher, Michel Foucault. The article discusses the relationship between Foucault’s conceptual tools of ‘knowledge and power’, the emergence of ‘the modern subject’ and the concept of ‘governmentality’. Despite ongoing pressures, professional expertise persists as a core element of neo-liberal government in the management of the population. We use a Foucauldian perspective to explore two issues central to contemporary practice: surveillance and discretion that epitomise dualism of power relations. On the one hand, surveillance brings with it a potentially problematic process especially in context of top down managerial power; yet, on the other hand, discretion is much more focused on what Foucault (1977) calls ‘the microphysics of power’ with opportunities for ‘resistance’ from the bottom up.