Social work supervision : a political function : a critique of cognitive interests and the impact of the capitalist welfare state : Master of Social Work thesis, Massey University

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Social work supervisory practice is motivated and conditioned by political intent. For behind all supervisory theories, modes of practice, cognitive interests and interpretations of human social existence lie the ideological perspectives of the actors whether these are revealed explicitly or implicitly. Ideological perspectives affect and shape social welfare policies, organisations and agencies, therefore social work exists and functions in a political context, likewise supervisory practice. The content or functions of supervision are never a-political nor is supervision a neutral scientific practice. Rather what is done, or not done, is highly a political act. The proposition that social work supervision is a political activity has not been argued by the numerous authors whose works have been critically reviewed as a background to this thesis. Such a proposition, however, is to argue an irrefutable hypothesis. This thesis, therefore, examines how social work supervision is a political activity driven by different cognitive interests and conditioned by its existence in a capitalist, social welfare, state. To critically debate this, the writer has used the Habermasian typology of alternative scientific traditions and different modes of practice. This provides a theoretical framework to canvass three different supervisory models and to critically examine supervision in New Zealand. The argument then in this thesis, is that three supervisory models exist: the apprenticeship model, the professional model and the radical model. The first two models have their genesis in the historical-hermeneutic and empirical-analytic scientific traditions, which in turn can be located in the functionalist orientation or the market orientation of capitalist societies. The radical model has its genesis in the critical-emancipatory scientific tradition which in turn can be located in the social/marxist paradigm. It is only this, third approach, that can claim to be explicitly political, maintaining the prime function of supervision is political activity. The other two approaches remain implicitly political for they act to ensure the continuation and maintenance of the capitalist welfare state.
Social worker supervision, Social work administration, Social workers, New Zealand, Social work politics