Actors, Texts, and Power in the History of Social Work : A paper for conference on "Post-modernism and social work" Ambleside, U.K., April 17-20, 1996
This paper is an introduction to the approach and method that I have developed in a recent study which aim is to trace the conceptual and practical history of Finnish poor relief and social work during the period when they modernized, i.e. were transformed from a voluntary activity based on local knowledge into textually coordinated professions. When planning the study and choosing the approach, I wanted to work out a method which helps to overcome the contradictions between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ in social work in interpreting its modernization. I believe that every epoch needs a new interpretation of history; an interpretation which begins from its own premises. Many consider our time post-modern. How do we need to understand the past now in order to be able to orient ourselves for the future, calls for micro-histories rather than the great, often marxistly flavored grand stories of the modern period. This time calls for reinterpretations of modernization which speak about real actors, who once lived and acted in a particular position, in particular social relations in which texts, discourses and specific facts were part of. This necessarily leeds to many standpoints of analyzing and many ‘truths’ of the past.