Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' 1 2006, page 82-95.
Leena Eskelinen, Dorte Caswell og Søren Peter Olesen
Our point of departure is an interest for the everyday practice of frontline workers, who work at the point of interaction between the welfare state and its users. In this article we present a critical constructive perspective as an alternative and supplement to the already present perspectives used for research in social work. A central point in this perspective is that professionalism is a significant factor in the shaping of practice in professional social work. We believe that practical social work is characterised by both similarities and great variation. Similarities can reflect political intentions, societal discourse and institutional rationales. Variations are most commonly explained through control problems and particularly frontline incompetence. The question we wish to pose is how much variety in social work practice is connected to independent decision-making within professional action in social work.
Our research approach is based upon four theoretical perspectives that are combined in order to qualify future empirical analyses. These are implementation, institution, profession and citizenship. There is no simple way of combining these perspectives and it is not our belief that they must be conflated and smoothed out. It is, however, imperative to allow the relevant perspectives to interact in order to fully describe and analyse in a nuanced way. The intention is to unfold a research perspective that is both constructive in relation to the development of practice and at the same time can maintain a critical distance to frontline practice.