The term ‘critical theory’ does not designate a unified analytical perspective. It is a term that embraces a variety of different theoretical positions. The critical theory has involved a variety of analyses, which have endeavored to link the concern with subjectivity, with the structural focus on the social and political context of people’s lives. The intent of critical theory is to challenge the legitimacy and counter the development of oppressive institutions and practices.
Critical theory places a significant emphasis on reflecting upon how dominant ideologies or ways of thinking, as well as societal institutions, impact on people’s lives. The study will reflect on the impact of power imbalances on the development of social welfare policy. This study will also analyze who is making policy decisions, who benefits, and who does not benefit. It will also attempt to identify the role values and beliefs play and how they affect constituents, legislators, regulators, service providers and recipients.
Critical theory questions the place of existing institutions, such as the family, educational establishments and governance, with a view to constructing a more just society. Critical theory has not been without its critics. Some argued that critical theory in general, failed in its attempt to link individual and social consciousness with institutional analysis and political economy. Others suggest that critical theory exaggerates the importance of consciousness in the process of radical social change.
It is important when analyzing a social problem, to find out why there is no social policy in existence to address it. Who are the groups affected by the problem, and if race, ethnicity or gender played a role in it. What values and beliefs are important? Are the programs effective and what are the costs and benefits? There will never be a final answer that says social work is one thing, but we can see by looking at the discourse the sort of areas in which it operates and the sort of issues that it faces.
The answers vary according to the time, social conditions and cultures where we ask these questions, because these times, social conditions and cultures contribute to the construction of social work, as workers, clients and agencies interact with each other. Nonetheless, taking part in social work requires a view about your particular balance between these aims your own construction, which guides the actions you take. It includes values appropriate to doing social work, and theories about the nature of social work.