Journal Article

‘Lifeworld’, ‘System’ and Family Group Conferences: Habermas’s Contribution to Discourse in Child Protection

David Hayes and Stan Houston

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 37, issue 6, pages 987-1006
Published in print September 2007 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online June 2006 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcl055
‘Lifeworld’, ‘System’ and Family Group Conferences: Habermas’s Contribution to Discourse in Child Protection

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Habermas’s critical social theory has been challenged on a range of fronts. However, the authors see merit in his mediation thesis as set out in the seminal text, Between Facts and Norms (1996). Adopting a pragmatist defence of the thesis, we review and demonstrate the effectiveness of what we believe is a coincidental expression of some of its main tenets—The Family Group Conference in Child Protection. Drawing further on Habermas’s work, we then proceed to re-work aspects of the conference’s core processes, thereby accentuating the possibility of empowering dialogue between its key participants: the families (who embody the ‘lifeworld’) and the social work professionals (who represent the ‘system’). In the final section, we argue that moral practice in child protection must be safeguarded by communicational procedures that explicitly address issues relating to the use of power and the need for ‘recognition’ between subjects.

Keywords: habermas; family group conferences; empowerment; child protection

Journal Article.  8313 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Work

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