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Anti-Oppressive Practice as a Legitimate Concern of Social Work

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Abstract

Practitioners adopting neutral approaches to their professionalism have, like many amongst the general public, deemed tackling oppression a political activity best undertaken within the political arena controlled by politicians (see Culpitt, 1992) and of little concern to them except in their roles as citizens. This position is best represented by the maintenance school of social work (Davies, 1985) which often sees itself as in opposition to the views posited by those in the emancipatory one (Dominelli, 1997). Those in the latter support anti-oppressive social work and question the relegation of tackling oppression to electoral politics because oppressive relations can be practised within professional relationships and activities as well as outside these. Oppressive behaviours and practices perpetrated by professionals in their work with clients have been well documented in a range of professions including social work (Corrigan and Leonard, 1978; Dominelli, 1988; Dominelli and McLeod, 1989; Langan and Day, 1989; Morris, 1991), education (Swann, 1985) and health (Fernando, 1991; Boxer, 1998). These may be intentional or otherwise. But if their impact on either clients or co-workers is oppressive, intentionality is immaterial.

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© Lena Dominelli 2002

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