Human service work can provide an opportunity for social change as well as a means of maintaining social order
The human services field is one that has been extensively studied, analyzed and reviewed in the social science discipline. As such, it has been defined at length. According to Herzberg (2014), it is an interdisciplinary knowledge base on “all human systems, social innovations and service technology” whose focus is preventing and remedying problems, improving peoples’ lives as well as improving the community in which they live. A human service professional seeks to not only improve service delivery, but also to improve service accessibility, accountability and coordination among professionals. Scholars have suggested several areas where human services impact, among them social change and social order. Social change, according to sociologists, is a significant shift in social order i.e. “cultural symbols, rules of behavior, social organizations, or value systems.” Social order, in this case, refers to a situation where the various components of the society i.e. “social structure and institutions, social relations, social interactions and behavior, norms, beliefs, values” etc., interrelate to maintain a status quo.
Personally, my values are hinged to the deontological moral systems. This concept can be traced to early 19th century by one Jeremy Bentham who used it as a synonym for “Dicastic or Censorial Ethics” i.e. ethics that is based on judgment. More specifically, I am a strong believer in Kantianism in that, I am of the opinion that we all have a duty to act morally irrespective of the consequence. Our motives form the measure of what it is that makes what we do to be either right or wrong. In line with that, I believe people’s actions should at all times seek to improve the lives of people in the society. As such, my view on human service is highly optimistic. I believe human service work, which as aforesaid seeks to improve service delivery, service accessibility, service accountability and service coordination is in line with our moral duties as human beings. Irrespective of whether the intended outcome is realized or not, human service professionals act in line with what can be considered as morally right.
According to Chenoweth & McAuliffe (2008), the human service workers in addition to empowering and liberating people, base their principles on the precincts of social justice and human rights. This falls in line with my belief that the motive for our actions as human beings should at all times have the best intentions. There are however, some pessimists who are of the opinion that the human service more often than not leads to social control which in some cases is true. However, I consider this to be a consequence and not the motive behind the human service professions. Sociologists such as Michael Foucault consent that it is inevitable to perform duties as a human service worker without eventually gaining social control (Healy, 2000). It is as such right to say that the benefits of human services are immense and that they are a mechanism that leads to social order i.e. a stable state of the society.
According to William Little (2016), social control is the fundamental goal to maintain social order i.e. the arrangement upon which members of the society base their daily lives. As such, we can conclude that human service work facilitates social order through social control. There is also the aspect of social policy. Fawcett, Goodwin, Meagher, & Phillips, (2010) are of the opinion that social policies is what determines the benefits and services that are availed to the service users. A policy in this case refers to “principles that govern action with an aim to reach specific ends.” According to them, social policy governs three key types of resources namely cash benefits, services and regulations. As aforementioned, human service providers’ main aim is to ensure people access services. By so doing, they address the erosion of traditional social networks as well as tackle the problem of individuals and groups being alienated and displaced from the mainstream society. This hence maintains social order.
Human services are impacted by dominant ideologies. Dominant ideologies, according to Marxist philosophies, represent “attitudes, beliefs, values as well as morals” that are shared by a greater part of the people in a given society. According to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “the ideas of the ruling class are, in any age the ruling ideas.” The politico-media complex (PMC), for instance, represents the relationship between a country’s political class and the media industry with an aim to manipulate people instead of informing them. Whereas the focus for early media studies was on the use of mass media as a tool for propaganda and persuasion, there has been a shift with researchers focusing on the effects of mass media and communications on the society. According to James Davison Hunter (1991), the media is at the center of culture wars. According to him, the media provides “the principal forms of public discourse” by which cultural warfare is waged. He gives examples of controversial discourses such as homosexuality, religion as well as abortion where varied cultural ideologists (conservatives and progressives) front their positions using various media technologies.
A notable aspect of ideology is that it influences what is studied and how. The dominant ideologies within the human services field tend to do way with issues such as racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. As fronted by Chenoweth & McAuliffe (2008), social justice is at the center of human services. The state and other players such as the media should hence front ideologies that make human services more comprehensive and effective. It is for this reason that Jamrozik (2009), suggested a two-layered welfare system where human service workers can be transformed to become more efficient and effective by equally incorporating private firms and the state. Social change and cultural consensus according to Cranston, (as cited in (Antonio, Uso-Domenech, & Gash, 2015) is influenced by ideology. As aforementioned, instead of having this consensus being held by only a small group of powerful individuals (dominant ideologies), an all inclusive ideology can drive social change positively.
Human service workers seek to boost the quality of people’s lives by improving service delivery, accessibility to services, accountability as well as coordination among professionals. As one whose values are based on deontological moral systems, I believe in doing what is right at all times irrespective of the outcome. This is in line with what human service workers do. Dominant ideologies have a huge impact on human services as well. This is built on the precinct that social change and cultural consensus are influenced by ideology. Making that ideology inclusive will as a result maintain social order and drive positive social change.
Antonio, N.-S. J., Uso-Domenech, J.-L., & Gash, H. (2015). What Are Ideological Systems? Systems , 5 (21), 2-17.
Chenoweth, L & McAuliffe, D 2014, The Road to Social Work & Human Service Practice, Cengage Learning
Australia, South Melbourne, Victoria.
Fawcett, B, Goodwin, S, Meagher, G & Phillips, R 2010, Social Policy for Social Change Palgrave Macmillan,
Healy, K. (2000). Social Work Practices: Contemporary Perspectives on Change. London: Sage Publications.
Herzberg, J. T. (2014). Foundations in human services practice: a generalist perspective on individual, a agency and community . Boston: Pearson College.
Hunter, J. D. (1991). Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. Basic Books: New York.
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Little, W., Vyrain, S., Scaramuzzo, G., Cody-Rydzewski, S., Griffiths, H., Strayer, E., et al. (2016). Introduction to Sociology. Minneapolis: Open Textbook Project.