Journal Article

Further Reflections on Habermas's Contribution to Discourse in Child Protection: An Examination of Power in Social Life

Stan Houston

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 6, pages 1736-1753
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online August 2009 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcp085
Further Reflections on Habermas's Contribution to Discourse in Child Protection: An Examination of Power in Social Life

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Hayes and Houston's positive review of Habermas's contribution to discourse in family group conferences (in this journal) has been challenged by Garrett. In this paper, one of the authors replies to Garrett but extends the analysis through a more considered, developed and detailed examination of Habermas's thoughts on power in social life. This leads to a conceptual framework that enables the participants in the conference to exercise power in a positive manner. In developing this earlier analysis, the paper also acknowledges Garrett's argument that Bourdieu helps us to understand the nature of constraining social structures in child protection. However, Bourdieu's ideas are subsequently challenged on the grounds that they lack a competent formulation on human agency—a faculty that Habermas cogently elucidates. This enlarged understanding of agency, it is argued, offers a theoretical resource that fits better with the ethos of emancipatory social work.

Keywords: Habermas; power; family group conference; child protection; Bourdieu

Journal Article.  6816 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Work

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