This paper will examine concepts of power in relation to surveillance, total Institutions and Stigma.
Examples of how a social care worker understands the concept of power, which is the key to acting in the best interest of the service user at all times. Many theorists have written about the theory of power such as Weber, Marks and Durkheim. For the purpose of this paper, Goffman and Foucault’s theories of power will be discussed in relation to Surveillance, Total Institutions and Stigma.
The term institutions can be used in a wider context. Institutions refer to structures that matter most in society, they support values and ideas. Institutions enable order through, expectation and by imposing form and consistency on the individual. Hodgson G. (2006) Institutions exist in many forms from family, Irish state, Rugby clubs, and Gaelic clubs.
Power is a universal aspect of all human relationships which can be either productive or destructive. Giddens (2013) Power gives individuals or groups the ability to accomplish their aims or progress their interests, even if there is opposition.
Power in general is a relation between two individuals, one who has the advantage and the other who is inferior. The advantage can exercise power while the inferior is affected by the power of the advantage individual. Power is secure in quantity as one individual can only gain at the cost of the other. There are always winners and losers in any power relationship. Scott (2006) Power dates a long way back in the history of Irish society it appears that in Irish history power belonged to the hierarchy of society such as the Government, Religious Orders, Doctors, Garda Siochana. Through this power these hierarchy members of society had control over vulnerable groups in society. The power over these institutions in Ireland was held by the government and religious orders that had the control over, Mother and baby homes, Industrial Schools, and Institutions for individuals with epilepsy. These places punished individuals by excluding them as they did not comply with the norm. Ryan Report, (2009)
Karl Marx view on Power
Karl Marx believed that there was a limited amount of power in society. This power can only be held by a one individual or a group at a time. Marx stated that groups are the working and ruling classes. Marx appears to view power as a history of class struggle. Giddens (2013)
Power: Goffman’s theory views the everyday behavior and interactions between individuals in order to help understand society. Goffman believed that social interaction can be viewed as a theater people in daily life are likened to actors on the stage, who are playing a variety of roles. Goffman (1963) The practitioner may play a role at work they may be more self aware and conduct themselves differently to get responses from service users.
Surveillance: Goffman stated that an individual’s social identity is shaped by their status and role set.
Stigma: Goffman (1968) stated that stigmatized individuals are those who do not have full social acceptance and are constantly striving to change their social identities. This may arise with individuals who have a physical disability Goffman referred these individuals as “discredited stigma” Giddens (2013) p307. Often the stigmatized individual may turn to other stigmatized individuals or others for support and help.
Total Institution: Goffman suggests that total institutions are social arrangements that are regulated according to one rational plan and that plan is implemented under one roof. Goodman (2013) An Example of such institution would be Stewarts and Nua Healthcare. Goffman also explained that total institutions are the living space where individuals who experience a similar social situation are detached from the wider community for a period of time. In these institutions life is lead by structure that encompasses their activities of daily living from eating, sleeping to participation in structured organized work. Individuals did not have the freedom to come and go as they would like and may have felt powerless.
Power: Foucault believed that power works through discourse to form attitudes. Foucault stated that power was not specific in one organization or held by any group of individuals but that power operates at all levels of social interaction, all levels of social institutions and through all people. Giddens (2013) p972 Foucault suggest that power and knowledge are interlinked they support one another.
Surveillance: Foucault refers to surveillance as the supervision of activities in organizations. Giddens (2001) Foucault suggests that it takes two forms the first is the direct supervision of workers by superiors. The second type of surveillance is as important but more indirect this involves record keeping. Giddens (2001) Social care practitioners understand that they are constantly under surveillance, this can happen in many ways from daily task folders require a signature when completed, the recording of fire test when carried out and when service users carry out personal care, all this needs to be recorded so that management can see that these tasks are completed in line with policies and procedures.
Stigma: Foucault believed individuals who are marginalized are part of larger society. These individuals speak the same language and share similar values as other members of society however due to their disability service users can be judge by their peers. Hannem (2012) Social care practitioners observe this with young adults with Autism if something has trigger a negative behavior outburst members of the public may judge them on their disability.
Total Institutions: Foucault states the importance of the relationship between power, ideology and discourse in relation to organizational systems. Individuals with power in institutions have established expert discourse this discourse may be used to restrict other ways of thinking or speaking. Giddens (2001)
Examples of how a Social Care Practitioner understanding of power is key to acting in the best interest of service users at all times.
A social care practitioner has the understanding that power is key in acting in the best interest of service user as they attend training to gain more knowledge so they are able to implement that knowledge in the best interest of the service user. Keeping professional boundaries is important when working with vulnerable service users, the social care practitioner has the power to work within their scope of practice and the service user has the power to understand the role of the practitioner in their life. Frank Cooper (2012) The social care practitioner has power in working under the Health and Social Care Professional Act 2005.
Discuss practice recommendations from Institutional enquiries and how this has rebalanced the power dynamic between Social Care Practitioner and Service User.
Historically in Ireland power had been misused or abused by certain individuals in institutions, through enquiries like the Ryan Report (2009) the practice recommendations from this report have been developed to ensure better quality of care is given to vulnerable individuals in society. This report recommended that child care policy should be child-centred the child’s needs are paramount. Ryan (2009) This policy appears to be implemented as every young person in a residential care setting has their own person centered care plan, this plan details all the relevant information needed in order to provide quality care. Another recommendation from the Ryan report was that rules be respected and implemented observing codes of conduct should be developed. This recommendation appears to be implemented organizations now follow policies and procedures that have designed by Tusla or Hiqa.
Through institutional enquiries the power dynamic has rebalanced between social care practitioners and servicer users this may be as a result of the introduction of organizations such as Hiqa and Tusla. The role of these organizations is to inform the public of what they can expect from services and their power to inspect and register services. There is now accountability if care settings fail in providing quality care. Service users are informed about their rights, if they are not happy they can voice this or they can voice through an advocacy person who will speak up for them if and when required. The power dynamic has rebalanced as each service user is treated individually, their wishes are respected, each service user has their own unique person support plan that sets out what that service user would like accomplish whether it be going on a holiday or attending a concert everything is achievable.
To conclude this paper examined the concept of power. This paper presented Goffman and Foucault concepts of power in relation to surveillance, stigma, and total institutions. The aim of this paper was to get an understanding of power and how social care practitioners understand that power is key in acting in the best interest of service users. On completion of this paper it appears that power exists on all levels. Power is specific to a situation and can be used to benefit individuals. A social care practitioner must use power correctly and at all time work within the professional practices that are established by CORU.
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