Speaking Truth to Power: Interrogating the Invention of the Social Worker and the Client


The development of a professional social work identity involves being socialized into the history, mission, values, and ethics of the profession – learning what social workers can say and do. This socialization also corresponds with a silence about the limits and philosophical extremities of the profession – what social workers do not, perhaps cannot, say. Drawing from social theorist Michel Foucault’s analysis of subjectivity, power, knowledge, and discourse, this article aims to articulate the limits of the social work profession. By examining the historical and contemporary invention of the “social worker” and the “client,” I challenge social workers to consider the work that must be conducted upon themselves.

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