Conference theme

Power and Social Work

Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere - Michel Foucault[1]

Questions of power, powerlessness and power relationships are inherent in social work education, research and practice. While traditional power-related questions remain important, current societal developments are often altering their context and content. Changing political goals and emerging technological prerequisites may also create new issues of power in relation to social work.

Examples of potentially important developments in a Nordic context, affecting power relations and placing new demands on research, education as well as practice are:

Higher demands on and stricter control of clients, a focus on quantifiable results of practices, blurred institutional boundaries with multi-professional teams, de-professionalization of social work through transference of tasks to other actors and institutions, within or outside the public sector, or to algorithms. More generally, virtual high-tech tools and social media provide both new threats and new possibilities for social work.

Such developments are taking place within the broader societal context of a polarized ideological climate, generating growing inequality and new hierarchical orders among both longtime residents and newcomers including an increasing number of people who are in acute need of social work measures.

Responses to these developments, including new ways seeking to influence power structures and access to power among different individuals and groups, have been emerging and are gaining growing attention among social work practitioners and academics alike.

While putting a focus on power and social work in a broad sense, the 2018 FORSA/NOUSA conference provides an opportunity for Nordic & international scholars and practitioners to meet, disseminate new knowledge and share new insights and experiences on all aspects of social work education, research and practice.

Welcome – Tervetuloa – Välkommen to the “Daughter of the Baltic”!


[1] (Foucault, 1998, p. 93) The History of Sexuality, Harmondsworth, Allen Lane.