Social work, power and performativity

Jason L. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, there have been a number of epistemological developments in social work. Further, there have been a number of theoretical approaches that have attempted to ground the concept of 'power' to understand organizational practice such as Marxist thought. At the same time, the insights of French social theorist Michel Foucault have been captivating to the disciplinary development of social work in illuminating power relations and subject positioning between helping professions and clients. To move beyond this, and in order to theoretically interrogate the relationship between social theory and professional power, this article draws from the neo Foucauldian-Feminist philosopher Judith Butler - especially regarding Butler's (1990, 1993 and 1998) powerful work on 'performativity'. This article attempts to generate new theoretical insights to understanding contemporary social work through the conceptual tools of Butler.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-79
Number of pages13
JournalChina Journal of Social Work
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • new-Foucauldian theory
  • performativity
  • power
  • social theory
  • social work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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