Social Welfare: Care Planning And The Politics Of Trust

Gilbert, Anthony Patrick (2001). Social Welfare: Care Planning And The Politics Of Trust. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis describes a study of power and power relations, which is developed through an exploration of the literature and professional discourse in an abductive research strategy The focus is provided by services for people with learning disabilities within one English County and the relationships that are produced within the processes that surround care planning. The study sets out to describe and to provide evidence for the proposition that welfare professionals and the organisations in which they are embedded set out to manufacture trust. This trust has a particular quality as it is impersonal and therefore does not require knowledge of any individual involved. At the same time this trust serves as a commodity within the competitive environment of welfare and it is contested - hence the politics of trust.

The study defines trust as the reduction of complexity and the management of expectations. It uses a framework developed from the work of Michel Foucault and his followers’ relating to the relationship between power and discourse and the concept of governmentality. The study describes the local relations of power within which both organisations and the people to whom they provide services become fixed. At the same time it links a developing discourse of citizenship concerning people with learning disabilities with a discourse of trust that is articulated by professionals within organisations. However, organisations tend to promote sets of relationships between the individual and the community, which produce differing forms of citizenship dependent upon the discursive structure of the organisation.

The existence of differing discursive structures between organisations is linked with Foucault’s description of the ‘orders of discourse’ that is then used to produce an organisational typology of three broad forms into which the range of organisations involved in the study are be placed. These are described as New Wave, Pragmatists and the Old Radicals and as each provides a different set of outcomes for service users they actively challenge the basis of the trust claimed by the other with the first category, New Wave, proving hegemonic. This implies that an understanding of the discursive structure of an organisation is essential to the understanding of power relations within a particular field of operations such as social welfare.

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