Institut for Statskundskab

Professional Norms and Categorization Practices among Danish Social Workers

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskningpeer review

What drives professionals working within a strong public regulative setting? This question has been given a lot of attention from different disciplinary perspectives among them public administration and political science. Here different aspects of what can be coined as “policy fidelity” has paved the way for an understanding of professionals as street-level bureaucrats whose working conditions first and foremost are characterized as cross pressured between policy goals, personal preferences, citizen pressure and professional norms (Lipsky 2010; Hupe & Hill; Winter 2008). However, more sociological informed approaches address the question of motivation through a dichotomy of whether professionals primarily see themselves as state- or citizen agents emphasizing professionals’ motivation as linked to what core task they do when they encounter citizens (Musheno & Maynard-Moody 2003).
The paper addresses social workers’ professional norms as they have been identified in 24 in-depth interviews with Danish social workers. Based on Emile Durkheim’s concepts of Professional Ethics and solidarity I interpret expressions about what drive social workers in their work with unemployed and/or disabled social clients. In my material I identify a difference between an administrative and a social-pedagogical reasoning about social workers’ casework. I analyze this difference as expressing different kinds of professional norms and I try to explain varying categorization practices with this difference. Finally, I compare correspondences between professional norms and categorization practice to the regulative setting (sickness benefits or social welfare) to see whether this matters to the found relationships.
The analysis shows a relationship between administrative reasoning and stereotyped categorization of social clients. Based on this finding the paper contributes to the ongoing academic and political discussion about how and why it is a good idea to discipline professionals to be primarily loyal to the public regulative setting. The paper’s analysis suggests that simply adding more rules to the work conditions of professionals won’t increase the quality of work. On the other hand, the analysis implies that a strict regulative setting is more likely to encourage stereotyping of citizens such as social clients in need of public assistance.
Udgivelsesår12 nov. 2012
Antal sider43
StatusUdgivet - 12 nov. 2012

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