Unformatted text preview: Human Behavior and the Social Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Macro Level: Groups, Communities, and Organizations Katherine van Wormer
Fred H. Besthorn
Thomas Keefe Copyright 2007, Oxford University Press. For classroom use only; all other reproduction or circulation is prohibited. Chapter 1
Chapter 1 Theoretical Perspectives Study of human behavior at the macro level—seeking the
pattern in things
pattern Use of our social work imagination required for macro-level
generalist From an empowerment perspective, HBSE to study
ecosystems of life in their interconnectedness
ecosystems HBSEMacro Level
HBSEMacro Level From an empowerment perspective,
HBSE to study ecosystems of life in their
interconnectedness metaphor of the holon environment-in-the-person as well as
person-in-the-environment Theory Construction
Theory Construction Theories offer explanations about human behavior
and aspects of human behavior.
Term theory can be used in a formal or informal
Theories can be classified in terms of scope: Small range, middle range, grand theory Theories can be classified in terms of ideology: order or consensus perspective
conflict perspective Critical Thinking at the Macro Level
Critical Two key aspects of critical thinking: (Keefe)
(1) empathy – the ability to put oneself in the place of
another, at macro level relates to a culture or population;
profound empathy relates to empathy with nature.
(2) critical consciousness – understanding encompassing
the social and economic context of human problems (from
Freire, Brazilian philosopher and activist)
Freire, Paradigm Shifts
Paradigm The Great Enlightenment – 18th Century ushered in a
paradigm shift—a scientific revolution or new
worldview (Kuhn, 1962, The Structure of Scientific
To Schriver (2004), paradigm shift represents a
revolutionary break with past ways of viewing reality.
revolutionary May be brought about through actions taken by a
dissatisfied segment of the community or crisis such as
war, economic depression, or even a great plague.
war, Paradigm Shifts in History
Paradigm Shifts in History Pendulum swings between two opposite poles, may
between right wing and left wing, conservatism and
compassion for the poor—social reform
World War I—conservative
Great Depression—social reform
World War II and the ’50s
Reaganism—trickle down theory
Reaganism—trickle Macro-Level Research
Macro-Level NASW Code of Ethics (1996) social workers to promote
Macro level research rarely funded by the government.
Evidence-based practice research in demand and vital for
Watch for research biases: researcher’s agenda, selection of
variables studied, choice of sample and manner in which data
Statistical data available at: www.warresisters.org ,
www.amnestyusa.org , www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs ,
www.jointogether.org , www.vpc.org , www.drugpolicy.org
www.jointogether.org www.vpc.org www.drugpolicy.org Research Design
Research Design Knowledge of research techniques and interpretations enhance critical thinking
Social workers need accurate and reliable data at hand to refute false claims and to lobby the legislature for reform Participatory research design—language from the people being studied Introduction to Macro Theory
Introduction to Macro Theory Theoretical perspectives are ideologically based, especially macro theory which pertains to the social structure.
They reflect cultural and personal biases of the theorist and the period. Theories continually grow and change.
Theoretical models in this chapter include: general systems and ecosystems frameworks, sociological theories of structuralfunctionalism, conflict and structural, and newer approachesfeminist, empowerment and antioppression.
Each has strengths and weaknesses. General Systems Theory
General Systems Theory This theory first came to scientific attention in the 1960s through von Bertalanffy, a biologist
wished theory to serve as a bridge between professionals from different fields. organizing framework from biology Basic Assumptions of Systems Model
Basic Assumptions of Systems Model The whole is more than sum of its parts.
Open and closed systems: An open system conducts a steady state of exchange with the environment. A closed system is shut off from its environment. Increasing differentiation and specialization from single cell to entire organism
Boundaries of the system: firm yet flexible
Causality is nonlinear, interactive Evaluation of Systems Model
Evaluation of Systems Model How to verify?
Cannot be proved or disproved by conventional
methodological Does the theory incorporate diversity and
Focus is more on order than disorder, little
emphasis on diversity or oppression.
emphasis Contributions of Systems Model
Contributions of Systems Model Virginia Satir (1972) highly influential family therapist, taught therapists to look for family patterns, saw roles as interconnected.
Minuchin and Bowen were concerned with the need for firm family boundaries and family communication patterns. General systems theory provides scope and flexibility which may be used at any level.
Offers a process for the organization of knowledge in social work. Criticisms of Systems Model Criticisms of Systems Model Negative criticism: This framework lacks a prescription for assessment or intervention in social work.
As “order theory,” it fails to deal with variables such as class, race, gender or power relations and conflicts. Positive criticism: This model brings to human behavior a macro perspective,
attention to roles and role playing within the family, work,
It offers a focus on feedback and system boundaries
Shows how parts of the whole fit together and are mutually
reinforcing Ecosystems Framework
Ecosystems Ecological approach—popularized in the “life model” of Germain and Gitterman (1980,1996). Notion of adaptation.
Combination of systems theory and an ecological, interactive perspective—a hybrid theory
A hybrid model for describing human interaction
views organisms in constant interaction and as interdependent with each other and the environment.
Environment in ecosystems terms refers to the neighborhood in which one lives and the schools one attends and, in this book, the natural realm. Basic Assumptions and Concepts
Basic Assumptions and Concepts Film: America’s Lost Landscape (2005) shows how
life on the prairie is circular as are the seasons;
anything that was at one time will be again.
Biological organisms exist in dynamic equilibrium
with the environment
Interactionism: Force exerted by the organism affects the environment
Organism adapts, partially adapts or fails to adapt to stress
Organism adapts partially
from the environment
from Organisms work together to form a system: this
perspective shows how the parts work together.
perspective Other Key Ecological Concepts
Other Key Ecological Concepts Niche : a particular place suitable to the growth and development of the organism
Transactions : interactions between people and others in their environment
Energy : borrowed from systems theory, refers to the power which springs forth and takes the form of input or output depending on the direction of the energy
Targets of change : the source of the social work intervention can be individuals, groups, or whole communities Natural Environment
Natural Environment Rich and poor populations and nations are joined in global interconnectedness. Goal should be sustainable development for all nations.
Besthorn and McMillen (2002), incorporated radical environmental philosophy of ecofeminism, human beings and nature. Criticism of Ecosystems Approach
Criticism of Ecosystems Approach Seen as overly inclusive, non-prescriptive, and expository
rather than explanatory.
Non-verifiable in its broadest formulation, but it is built on
truths that can be validated such as the impact of pollution on
the earth and all living things.
Does it incorporate issues of diversity and oppression? Yes; an examination of cultural environments and organizational
responsiveness to cultural diversity is essential to the model.
Oppression can be addressed as here from an empowerment
perspective. Contributions to Social Work
Contributions to Social Work Important idea that person and the environment are in constant and dynamic interaction, a nonlinear view
Family therapy borrows from ecology; roles individuals play in a family are seen as complementary and interactive. This insight is relevant also to group work. Advantages: provides the ability to analyze circular connections between worker and client, value in assessment, integration of other social work theories
More representative than general systems theory of reality, adaptable to all levels of intervention. What Does the Theory Teach about Human
Behavior? The concept of adaptation in assessing the goodness of personenvironment fit or how well people cope with stressors in their surroundings.
Can serve to locate points of oppression and the need for structural change to provide personal growth and development. Structural Functionalism
Structural Functionalism A theory from sociology—addresses phenomena at the macromacro level
Views the social system as composed of interdependent parts, each with positive consequences or functions, working together to produce stability.
Talcott Parsons, 1940s, wanted to construct a grand theory for all the social sciences: Social system must have an adaptive function to relate to
other systems. There must be a pattern of maintenance and
Tendency for system to maintain equilibrium Structural Functionalism
Structural Functionalism Merton (1957) contributed concepts of latent and manifest functions
Manifest : stated, obvious reasons for an activity
Latent: unintended or not initially recognized reasons
Conflict can unite people against source of conflict.
Gans (1995): used functional analysis from a radical perspective to consider the functions of poverty
Poverty has many latent functions such as giving us people to feel superior to, making jobs for social workers, etc. Contribution to Social Work
Contribution to Social Work Contributions of Parsons’ ideas not readily apparent
Relevance at the wider societal level
Enables social workers to examine social institutions from a broadbased perspective Major criticisms Conservative bias of Parsons and his followers due to focus on maintaining equilibrium
Acceptance of the status quo
Fails to focus on the nature and meaning of the interaction among humans Is the Theory Verifiable?
Is the Theory Verifiable? Society decides whether a custom or social activity is functional or not.
Government statistics may show the good or harm of a certain practice such as organized crime, the death penalty or poverty. Does the theory incorporate issues of diversity and oppression? Structural functionalism tends to justify societal issues instead of social change to end oppression.
Functional analysis may be used by radicals in a creative way to explain oppression. What Does It Teach about Human What Does It Teach about Human Behavior? Functional analysis can be used to handle why questions: why homophobia, poverty, or such lengthy professional education in the U.S.?
But theorists should also consider the dysfunctions of homophobia, poverty, etc., in our society
Especially important to consider are the latent functions of an activity or custom (for example, weddings and funerals) to appreciate the unintended and hidden aspects of the activities and rituals Conflict and Structural Theory
Conflict and Structural Theory Societies not seen in equilibrium but as in perpetual conflict–
torn by constraint and struggles for power.
torn Assumptions and concepts: Karl Marx: alienation of people from the social system that
exploits C. Wright Mills: the power elite and the sociological
imagination needed to see through aims of the power
structure Piven and Cloward: Elites in society can be counted on to
provide only enough aid to prevent mass disorder and
regulate the poor. Welfare aid is stigmatized.
regulate Conflict Theory Offers structural explanations for social and many personal
Oppression of the people who are left out of the power
Social control seen as a function of much of social work.
Canadian theorist Bob Mullaly (1997): structural social work –
focus on structure. Views one’s circumstances and difficulties
as connected to one’s economic and social position in society.
Conflict theory includes feminist, empowerment, and antioppressive ideas. Considerations
Is the conflict theory verifiable? Is Mills’s (1956) concept of the power elite can be validated through the study of major contributors to political campaigns. Who are the major contributors? Does the theory incorporate issues of diversity
and It looks at the status quo in a critical light. Oppression is a key element in these perspectives
derived from Marxism.
derived What is the Influence on Social What is the Influence on Social Work? Impact of conflict theory seen in social work code of ethics which was revised to include ethical responsibilities for social change (NASW, 1996).
Seen in international social work’s revised definition of social work to stress principles of human rights and social justice (IFSW, 2004).
Critiques of global capitalism borrow ideas from conflict theory.
This view helps guide critical thinking about the typical client’s position within the macro environment and how the system works
Impact on social work education, including HSBE curriculum. Major Criticisms of Conflict Theory
Major Criticisms of Conflict Theory Advocates collective action: weak in dealing with individuals with emotional problems
Radical social workers faulted for failing to listen to the clients’ interpretations of their problems.
Conflict does not necessarily lead to change – may be viewed as a negative outlook.
View of clients as victimized is disempowering.
Highly ideological. What Does the Theory Teach about What Does the Theory Teach about Human Behavior? Guides students and practitioners to think critically about power imbalances in society: legislation, policies, oppression of the poor.
Helps us understand power and why the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer Shows how meanstested programs ultimately destroy the programs
Shows how welfare practices regulate the poor, and establish social control.
Reveals tendencies in society toward greed and punitiveness, the tendency to look down on others. Feminist, Empowerment, and Anti
Feminist, Empowerment, and Anti
Oppressive Perspectives Feminism as defined by Van den Bergh and Cooper (1995): “a conceptual framework and mode of analysis that has analyzed the status of women cross
culturally and historically to explain dynamics and conditions undergirding disparities in sociocultural status and power between majority and minority populations” (p.xii).
Term popularized with the women’s movement of early ’70s
“Women’s lib” was mocked in the media at the time. Five Types of Feminism
Five Types of Feminism Liberal feminism – equality between men and women through legislation
Radical feminism focus on patriarchy, stresses differences between men and women
Socialist or Marxist feminism oppression viewed as part of the structural inequality within the classbased social system
Black feminism racism and sexism, black experience compared to experience of white women
Postmodern feminism how society through language creates social assumptions of how women are and how they should be treated.
**Add to this list Ecofeminism – an environmental view that the oppression of women and nature are inextricably linked. Feminist Perspective
Feminist Perspective Boxed reading: personal narrative— “Cries from the Second Wave”—one woman’s awakening during the ’70s Third Wave Feminism: Popular books for younger generation: Feminism Is for Everyone (bell hooks, 2000)
Manifesta, Baumgardner and Richards(2000)—speak to the
younger Empowerment Perspective Empowerment Perspective
(Note: feminism and antioppressive social work are both empowerment approaches; here we are talking about social work’s empowerment perspective) The term sprang out of the Civil Rights and feminist movements. Early work in the field: Black Empowerment by Solomon (1976) Focus on use of power to keep people down People encouraged to learn how to obtain power and work for social change To be empowered, a person or group requires an environment that provides options. Empowerment ascribes authority to the individual to make choices. AntiOppressive Approach
AntiOppressive Approach A more radical approach than the US social work empowerment approach.
Focus on oppressive system that needs to be drastically changed
Aim to minimize power differences in society and in the professions, to maximize the rights to which all people are entitled.
In AntiOppressive Social Work Theory and Practice, Dominelli (2002) advocates a human rightsbased social work.
Widely used in U.K. and Canadian social work
Views the capitalist social system as generally oppressive.
Focus on sweeping social change, has a structural, Marxist base. Considerations
Considerations Can these approaches be validated?
Verifiable in many of the claims through use of government statistical data and international sources – poverty, oppression and discrimination.
Basic ideology convincing but hard to prove. Does the theory incorporate issues of diversity and
oppression? The dynamics of oppression, exploitation, social isolation, marginalization and backlash are the focus of this approach. Contribution to Social Work
Contribution to Social Work
Feminism has had the most tangible impact of the three approaches on social work and society: Has led to a paradigm shift in women’s awareness they deserved the same privileges and rights as men Has had a direct influence in the development of social work as a predominantly women’s profession. Has caused a refocus on women’s needs and safety rather than conformity to tradition. Recognition of the oppression of black women Major Criticisms Major Criticisms Feminism: 2nd wave leaders are criticized for— Focusing on the concerns of white middle class women Dividing “working” women and women who chose to work at home as housewives, failing to include men in the movement. Empowerment: focuses exclusively on working within the system to the neglect of the necessary changes required of the system as a whole
Antioppressive: many oppressed persons do not accept the radical view of oppression and do not feel connected to other oppressed groups What These Approaches Teach about Human What These Approaches Teach about Human Behavior They show the reality of sexism, racism, ageism, heterosexism, ethnocentrism, etc.
They raise awareness of the nature of oppression and the need to use of power in positive ways through raising public consciousness.
They show how with help, most people can gain power over their own lives and take action against their own oppression. Practice Implications
Practice Implications General systems theory broadens our perspectives.
The ecosystems model adds an envi...
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