Journal Article

Rethinking Empowerment: A Postmodern Reappraisal for Emancipatory Practice

Bob Pease

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 32, issue 2, pages 135-147
Published in print March 2002 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online March 2002 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Rethinking Empowerment: A Postmodern Reappraisal for Emancipatory Practice

Show Summary Details


This article is concerned with the implications of the postmodern challenge to critical theory for the practice of empowerment. How do we conceptualize empowerment from a postmodern perspective? It is argued that the modernist concept of power upon which empowerment rests, can have unintended disempowering effects. By conceptualizing power as a commodity, identities are forced into a powerful–powerless dualism which does not always do justice to diverse experiences. Thus we can sometimes contribute to dominance in spite of our liberatory intentions. It is argued that social workers need to become more aware of the self‐disciplining and self‐regulatory processes involved in professional work to address the social relations of power embedded in professional practices. Foucault's analysis of how marginalized knowledges are affected by dominant cultural practices suggests a redefining of empowerment as the insurrection of subjugated knowledge. The implications of this redefinition for practice is illustrated by reference to work with indigenous people in Australia.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.