Human Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 57–85 | Cite as

The Group Home Workplace and the Work of Know-How

  • Jack Levinson


This paper is concerned with the everyday practice of authority and knowledge in a group home for adults with intellectual disability. Based on fieldwork, the group home is understood as a workplace, which provides a model of organizational participation as a dilemma of freedom rather than a problem of power. Three kinds of work are observed in the everyday ‘know-how’ of counselors and residents. First, Michael Lipsky’s concept of “street-level bureaucracy” is used to understand the inherently indeterminate and conflictual nature of counselor work. Second, the competent participation of residents is also organized as work, often explicitly, as the work they must do to “become more independent.” The group home is therefore understood as a setting of governmentality because it reflects the indirect practice of authority characteristic of contemporary liberal societies. Finally, the ethnomethodological insight about the accomplished character of local order is the basis for the observation of everyday life itself as a third kind of work.


disability ethnomethodology governmentality group home social service work 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyQueens CollegeNew YorkUSA

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