Structural social work has been an emerging practical theory in the field of social work since the 1970s. It grew in response to the supremacy of class analysis as opposed to other structural factors within the field. The theory of structural social work grew as human relations became increasingly recognized to be influenced by inequitable distribution of power and privilege. It was not just economic inequalities but also social inequalities stemming from race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and age. Structural theorists began calling for the inclusion of those who were previously marginalized in the development of social work theory. This new branch of social work grew on the notion that the field has significant transformative potential and should therefore adhere to a commitment of equity, justice, community and the elimination of all form of oppression. Since its inception, structural social work has had much influence in the curriculum of many schools and practitioners have implemented it into their practice.(Mullaly, 1997: 3). The following essay will discuss what is meant by structural social work and how it can be used to inform the study of drug use in society. From this it will be clear that structural social work can serve to inform us about the study of drug use in society by applying a conflict perspective to critical theory and seeking to explain problems of drug use through an examination of broader social forces.
[...] They argue that society is marked with inequalities and is fragmented along lines of class, gender, race and age and these social forces must be related to the social problems that plague individuals within society, including drug use. Conflict theorists believe that societal problems, like drug use, must lie at a higher societal plane than is perceived by the order theorists. Reasons and Perdue (1981:111), note that conflict theorists do not ignore individuals, families and subcultures, but they relate these societal planes with broader structures within society. [...]
[...] Structural social work is a conflict perspective (as opposed to an order perspective) as it views society as an ongoing contested struggle among groups and with opposing views and interests. Under this approach, it is held that society is not maintained through order but by differential control of resources and political power. (Mullaly, 1997: 119). The conflict perspective has its own theory about social problems, and can serve to inform the study of drug use in society. According to Horton (1966: 702), conflict analysis in one and the same as historical analysis, as it interprets social processes in a way that understand the transformation of social relations. [...]
[...] Critical theory dictates that structural social work theory be critical of existing social, economic and political institutions and practices, and works to change them in a liberating way. It has provided an alternative social vision that seeks to use people and social forces to change political practice in ways that will create less conflict and oppression. (Mullaly, 1997: 110). Within the field of critical theory there are two competing perspectives: modernism and post-modernism. Both have a commitment to a model of social theory that is politically engaged and seeks to emancipate, but neither has been able to make significant inroads. [...]
[...] The purpose of critical social theory is to create theory, policies and practice that serve to emancipate people from domination (oppression). (Mullaly, 1997: 108). Karl Marx can be said to be among the first critical theorists, and arguably was the founder of the movement. His philosophy was about emancipating those from the different forms of social, political and economic oppression. It developed through the Frankfurt School which included prominent thinkers like Theodore Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse. These thinkers advocated for critical theory to be used in education, as they believed that emancipation could not take hold if people were ignorant, therefore it sought to free people from mind domination. [...]
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