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My Social Work Voice - March 2015

March 19, 2015

As I come to the end of my final term of Masters level Social Work studies, I lean more-and-more towards a career as a structural social worker.  In 1979 when I was nine years old, Maurice Moreau described structural social work as being “concerned with ways in which the rich and powerful in society define and constrain the poor and less powerful.”

Hi, I’m Harold Pliszka and I am a third slash fourth wave feminist with a keen interest in anti-oppressive practice.  The personal is entirely political.  Canada’s society and its institutions were structured – and are largely maintained by – upper-middle-class and wealthy white heterosexual Christian men.  I have come to realize that most Canadians do not even know the privilege that comes with being a white male – I certainly didn’t know about it when I was younger.  It is not enough to simply tell someone ‘to pull up their bootstraps” to gain access to the benefits of a neoliberal capitalist society.  We must actively work to change the structures of oppression created over the last 500 years.  I won’t go into the details here but Canadians, beginning with the British and French, have acted in horribly racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist, ableist and classist ways.

For me, this structural approach looks more at the structures of oppression than the individuals within those structures. In contrast to the implications of Moreau’s quote, I don’t necessarily believe the wealthy and powerful are conscious oppressors– they attained success in this system and it’s understandable that they would think others can also attain that success.  Consciousness raising is just as necessary for the wealthy and powerful as it is for the poor and less powerful.  In my opinion, this far reaching consciousness raising, will be necessary for creating more equitable societies.

Structures are also impacted by chaos and complexity.  In simplistic terms, chaos theory shows that we are always at the edge of chaos until one or more events throws us into chaos and then, new events will also move us out of chaos. With complexity theory, systems learn from each period of chaos resulting in structures built anew from that learning.

Whether I find myself working at macro levels internationally or locally in the non-profit world or in the three levels of government, I will bring this structural approach to my practice to advance my desires for more equitable communities.

Thank you.

View the video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/N2UOQiU9lIs.

Reference:

Moreau, M. (1979). A Structural Approach to Social Work Practice. Canadian Journal of Social Work Education, 5(1), 78-94. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41670012

"Whether I find myself working at macro levels internationally or locally in the non-profit world or in the three levels of government, I will bring this structural approach to my practice to advance my desires for more equitable communities" (Pliszka, 2014).

Related links:
Video on YouTube