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Article

This entry provides a brief history of social work's changing knowledge base about human behavior and identifies the current knowledge base as multidimensional, multispherical, multicultural, multidirectional, multidisciplinary, and multitheoretical. It provides an overview of eight broad theoretical perspectives currently used in social work: systems, conflict, rational choice, social constructionist, psychodynamic, developmental, social behavioral, and humanistic perspectives. Each perspective is analyzed in terms of its central ideas, practice implications, and empirical evidence. The entry ends with a brief discussion of trends and directions.

Article

Alice Lieberman

Ann Weick was the dean of the School of Social Welfare, University of Kansas (1987–2006) and a principal developer of the underlying rationale for the strengths perspective in social work practice.

Article

Organizational theories can be classified into three types—structural, cultural, and mythical. The structural perspective is based in “bounded rationality” and focuses on how formal structures influence the thoughts and actions of public actors. According to this perspective, leaders are central in decision-making processes and are scoring high on rational calculation and control, achieving public goals using the formal structure as a tool. The leaders could either hierarchical dominate decisions or there could be negotiations among them. The cultural perspective focuses on the role of informal norms and values in public organizations; how they develop and their impact. Gradual institutional development by adapting to internal and external pressure is creating unique or distinct cultural identities. Concepts like path dependency and cultural compatibility are central. The mythical perspective focuses on the social construction of reality and how symbols have importance in public organizations. Political and administrative leaders often talk in one way and act in another, meaning that it’s a loose coupling between talk and action. Symbols may be important in supporting instrumental actions. The dynamics between the theories in explaining public decision-making theory is discussed. It’s argued that these theories in combination with democratic theories are needed to develop a specific set of theories for studying public organizations, because the public sector is distinct from the private sector. The theories can be used to analyze decision-making in public organizations, whether related to agenda-setting, policy-making, negotiations, regulation, implementation, public reforms, and so forth. It’s discussed a research agenda where the potential of the theories for researching public decision-making is discussed and examples given.

Article

This article addresses the relational dynamics of interorganizational relationships where multiple legally independent organizations work on a joint goal, for example in public–private partnerships, alliances, or joint ventures. It focuses on the dynamics of groups that consist of members representing different organizations and thus different interests, who come together to work on the multiparty task. The relational dynamics are understood from a so-called systems-psychodynamic perspective, which aims to understand the emotional life of social systems in context. The article first will depict the relational challenges of working across organizational boundaries. It then will briefly sketch how social psychology (the domain par excellence for studying intergroup relations and group dynamics) helps fathom the relational challenges and where its insights are incomplete. Then, a systems-psychodynamic perspective is introduced. The article proceeds with describing an action research approach that is sensitive to the emotional underpinnings of interorganizational relationships, by providing two illustrations: one involving a real-life infrastructural project, the other concerning a complex behavioral simulation of interorganizational dynamics. The article ends with some reflections on the use of a systems-psychodynamic perspective in understanding and working with multiparty dynamics.

Article

Alice Lieberman

Dennis Saleebey was Professor, School of Social Welfare, University of Kansas (1987–2006), and one of the most important scholars in the development and extension of the strengths perspective to diverse populations and milieus in social work practice.

Article

Dorothy Cowie

It has long been known that there are topographic maps of the body in primary sensory and motor cortices. While these maps have greater representation of sensitive body parts, the fact that we do not feel these distortions in everyday sensory experience indicates that there are also higher-level corrective processes involved in tactile perception. Beyond perceptions on the body, one’s own body is perceived as distinct from external objects, and this perception gives rise to a feeling of ownership over the body—that my body is mine or belongs to me. This arises from both bottom-up and top-down sensory signals. In the rubber-hand illusion, stroking on a fake hand induces the participant to feel that it is their own. Therefore, the sight of a body, and the synchrony of visual and tactile signals on it, are important cues to body ownership. Other forms of multisensory synchrony, including movement and interoceptive signals, also contribute. Prior expectations of the body’s posture and form constrain the extent to which these sensory signals produce feelings of ownership. Since body ownership arises from a multiplicity of signals, it is subject to significant individual differences. There is also plasticity in body representation. This is demonstrated by neural reorganization in individuals with congenital limb loss and by developmental effects. While very young infants are sensitive to the multisensory signals that drive body ownership (e.g., visuotactile synchrony), it takes substantial experience for the tactile sensations of the body to be flexibly coded in appropriate reference frames; likewise, children up to 10 years old tend to embody an appropriately oriented hand more than adults. Understanding own-body representation has important applications, including for tool use, prosthetic design, and virtual reality.

Article

Between 1903 and 1950, aviation technology was spread around the world and became a key concern of governments and a cultural marker of modernity. After 1903, Asia had to be explored again. Almost as soon as heavier than air flight became possible, French and British fliers began pioneering new routes to Asian cities and developing new maps and new airports along the way. With these new forms of knowledge, the colonial powers quickly moved to tie together their empires. New mapping techniques allowed for new forms of control, including what the British called “air policing,” the idea that judicious use of aircraft, and in some cases bombs and poison gas, could cheaply pacify far-flung colonial populations. Aviation was one field, however, where the Europeans did not have a long lead on Asians. Just as Europeans were using aviation to express their dominance, Asians were using it to express their modernity. Feng Ru was making and flying his own planes in San Francisco by 1912, and Siam had an air force by 1913. Asian social and political elites, who had once traveled by rail and steamship, now preferred to fly instead. “Air-mindedness” became a marker of global citizenship. Japan was the first Asian country to have an aviation industry. They proved their technological prowess to the rest of the world when they entered World War II. Their pilots bombed cities and fleets across Asia between 1937and 1945. The experience of being bombed as well as the drills and community organizations that grew out of experience ushered in a societal awareness of the military power of airplanes. The war culminated with two atomic air raids and was followed by a scramble to occupy and connect the newly liberated and independent parts of Asia. The post–World War II period led to an intensified effort to tie Asia together with faster transportation

Article

Johnny S. Kim and Kristin Whitehill Bolton

In social work practice, the strengths perspective has emerged as an alternative to the more common pathology-oriented approach to helping clients. Instead of focusing on clients’ problems and deficits, the strengths perspective centers on clients’ abilities, talents, and resources. The social worker practicing from this approach concentrates wholly on identifying and eliciting the clients’ strengths and assets in assisting them with their problems and goals. This article discusses the historical development of the strengths perspective, practice techniques, current applications, and philosophical distinctiveness.

Article

There is a large literature base within the field of sport psychology that provides tremendous direction to coaches and parents on how to structure youth sport so that young athletes develop sport skills and concurrently reap psychological benefits from their sport participation. Much of this research has employed Nicholls’ Achievement Goal Perspective Theory and a Caring Framework to (a) identity the processes children undergo as their cognitive development matures across the elementary years, allowing them to accurately judge their ability by adolescence, (b) formulate their personal definitions of success in sport (develop their goal orientations), and (c) note features of the team and overall sport climate created by coaches and parents. Of particular importance is athletes’ perceptions of the motivational climate prevailing on their teams. Athletes can perceive a caring and task-involving climate where coaches reward effort, improvement, and cooperation among teammates, make everyone feel they play an important role on the team, and treat mistakes as part of the learning process. In contrast, athletes can also perceive an ego-involving climate where the coach rewards ability and performance outcome, fosters rivalry among teammates, punishes mistakes, and gives most of the recognition to a few “stars.” When athletes perceive a caring and task-involving climate on their teams, they are more likely to have fun, exert high effort, experience intrinsic motivation, have better interpersonal relationships with coaches and athletes, display better sportsperson-like values and behaviors, have better psychological well-being, and even perform better. In contrast, when athletes perceive an ego-involving climate on their teams they experience fewer adaptive and positive motivational outcomes and greater problematic outcomes (e.g., increased cortisol; greater endorsement of unsportsperson-like behaviors). Research has clearly identified the benefits of coaches and parents creating a caring and task-involving climate for young athletes, yet there are still many ego-involving climates in the youth sport world. A number of organizations are committed to helping coaches and parents transform youth sport culture into a positive arena where young people can develop their athletic skills and have a rewarding sport experience.

Article

Poststructural/postmodern international relations (IR) is a mode of critical thinking and analysis that joined disciplinary conversations during the 1980s and, despite the dismissive reception it has initially faced, it is a vibrant and expanding area of research within the field today. Providing a radical critique of politics in modernity, it is less a new paradigm or theory. Instead, it is better described as “a critical attitude” that focuses on the question of representation and explores the ways in which dominant framings of world politics produce and reproduce relations of power: how they legitimate certain forms of action while marginalizing other ways of being, thinking, and acting. To elaborate the insights of poststructuralism/postmodernism, the article starts off by situating the emergence of these critical perspectives within the disciplinary context and visits the debates and controversies it has elicited. This discussion is followed by an elaboration of the major themes and concepts of poststructural/postmodern thought such as subjectivity, language, text, and power. The convergences and divergences between poststructuralism and its precursor—structuralism—is an underlying theme that is noted in this article. The third and fourth sections make central the epistemological and ontological challenges that poststructuralism/postmodernism poses to disciplinary knowledge production on world politics. While the former focuses on how central categories of IR such as state and sovereignty, violence, and war were problematized and reconceptualized, the latter attends to the poststructuralist/postmodern attempts to articulate a different political imaginary and develop an alternative conceptual language to think the international beyond the confines of the paradigm of sovereignty and the modern subject. The article concludes with a brief look at the future directions for poststructural/postmodern investigations.

Article

Shelva Paulse Hurley

Resilience is the ability to adapt and thrive despite facing adversity. There are various ontological approaches to conceptualizing resilience, including the pathological perspective, defining it in terms of protective factors, and exploring the impact of intervention in the manifestation of resilience. The pathological perspective defines resilience in terms of risk factors located at the individual level. A second area of research on resilience defines it in terms of protective factors that may contribute to its manifestation. The final area of research takes into account not only individual-level risk or protective factors, but also accounts for structural influence in an assessment of resilience. As an example of the interaction between individual and structural factors, Caleon and King proposed the concept of Subjective School Resilience. This perspective on resilience suggests it is a malleable construct and influenced by factors relating to both intra- and interpersonal processes.

Article

Leadership has fascinated people from antiquity and has been studied extensively by academics for many decades. A variety of theoretical perspectives have taken hold—most notably that of transformational leadership—and have sought to explore the processes whereby leaders influence followers, to delineate the factors that put limits on such influence, and to determine the interrelationship between the attributes that leaders bring to their role and the contexts in which they find themselves. There has also been a growing interest in followership and how the behaviors, cognitions, and emotions of followers both contribute to organizational and group outcomes and help to shape leader behavior. The issue of followership, however, remains very much a nascent area of inquiry within the broader field of leadership studies. Recently, explicitly communication perspectives have been brought more frequently to bear on leadership studies. This has assumed two main forms. First, “discursive leadership” has looked at both the linguistic mechanisms by which leader action and effects take place and how larger frames of leadership discourse can be said to constitute both broader leader–follower dynamics and our understanding of them. Associated with this, some complexity leadership theorists have stressed the “relational” dynamics implicit to leadership processes as a means of countering what they see as an excessive focus on the traits and actions of individual leaders. These approaches emphasize the importance of context and the relational dynamics between leaders and followers embedded in such contexts. Second, some communication scholars influenced by process theories of organization have begun to sketch out the means whereby communication is central to how organizational actors make, refuse, and enact claims to leadership agency, particularly in contexts where such claims may be contested by many. The role of follower dissent and power relations more generally is viewed as a crucial area of inquiry. Accordingly, communication approaches to leadership have adopted a variety of theoretical perspectives. Many scholars from communication backgrounds have researched communication processes whereby leaders influence others. More recently, critically oriented communication scholars have explored the often conflicted dynamics between leaders and followers, focusing on such issues as power, domination, and control and their implications for leadership theory. Both explicitly and implicitly, these have therefore challenged dominant leadership perspectives, particularly but not exclusively that of transformational leadership.

Article

John Baldwin, Iraklis Ioannidis, and Robert Huegel

The global world brings people increasingly into contact with those from other cultures, or else they read about them in the media, leading them to make comparative judgments about their behavior. Sometimes people make these judgments at a national or international level as nations, multinational organizations, and social action organizations seek to discuss human rights across cultures. Contemporary Western ethics find their origins in discussions of ethics and morality by Immanuel Kant (deontological ethics) and Aristotle (teleological ethics). These and other ethical approaches are certainly relevant to communication scholars and practitioners in general, but those working across cultures face particular ethical dilemmas. Unfortunately, interculturalists often do not discuss ethics, or if they do, they discuss them in a brief and superficial way, which might give way to their own ethical stance to color their understanding of others. Those who discuss ethics face a major tension between seeking a single ethical approach that applies to all cultures (i.e., ethical absolutism) and letting each culture determine its own ethical direction (i.e., cultural relativism, one form of the broader notion of ethical relativism). Various authors have proposed deriving a stance from what ethical stances seem to be universal, much as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights seems to do. Others propose peace or humanitarian ethics that would leave most cultural elements alone in other cultures, but speak when actions, policies, or social situations work against the human dignity of individuals. Jürgen Habermas, on the other hand, proposes that people seek ideal speech situations, where people can have open dialogue without restraints, such as power differentials. Finally, as a way out of the ethical maze, others have proposed a dialogic or communicative approach that is not relative, but with which people involved in ethical decisions enter discussions with each other, often considering a wide array of contextual factors that might affect ethical outcomes.

Article

Philippe Le Billon

“Resource wars” refer to the linkages between armed conflict and access to natural resources.Geographically, these wars are frequently represented through world maps of “strategic resources,” combining the physical scarcity and non-substitutability of resources with their uneven spatial distribution and relative geopolitical location to pinpoint “hot-spots.” Yet perspectives on the links between war and resources are much broader than the continuation of resource policies through the use of military force. Similarly, the geographical dimensions of, and geographical perspectives on, these links are more diverse than maps of “strategic” materials. Classical geopolitical perspectives have most frequently linked the concept of resource war to interstate conflicts over the supply of strategic resources, giving way to a narrow and militaristic notion of “resource security.” To explain potential relations between resources and wars, political economy perspectives have articulated three main arguments about resources: an institutional weakening effect increasing vulnerability to conflict, a motivational effect increasing the risk of armed conflict, and an opportunity effect associated with resources financing belligerents. The other set of perspectives originates from political science and development economics studies, and is based on the assumption that the significance of resources in wars is largely rooted in questions of resource scarcity, abundance, or dependence.

Article

Selena Marshall and Michele Gordon

Social-ecological inspections into community violence advance our understanding of a single story of violence solely within urban communities, to a more critical discourse of examination. Undoubtedly, the environmental and social determinants of community violence influence variances in community health and dimensions of overall quality of life. Community violence is systemic, with compounded intergenerational effects rooted in racism, discrimination, and marginalization. The reality of daily violence and repeated traumas that many communities experience requires an urgent, multilevel response. Advocacy efforts must be directed at dismantling the structural components within communities that support social disengagement and a culture of normative violence. Community-engagement interventions that are respective of trauma-informed care and community building, have numerous implications for bridging micro- and macro-level social work practices.

Article

Martin Bloom

Primary prevention involves coordinated efforts to prevent predictable problems, to protect existing states of health and healthy functioning, and to promote desired goals for individuals and groups, while taking into consideration the physical and sociocultural environments that may encourage or discourage these efforts. This entry discusses the history of this basic approach to professional helping from medical, public-health, and social-science perspectives. It also reviews major theories that guide preventive thinking and action. One section sketches the substantial empirical base for evidence-based practice and how such information can be retrieved. This entry concludes with a review of practice methods for increasing individual strengths and social supports while decreasing individual limitations and social stresses, which together characterize most contemporary preventive services.

Article

Crisis decision making is characterized by a profound degree of uncertainty, the centralization of power, increased communications and argumentation both within and between organizations, management and eventual resolution of the problem, and a period of lesson-drawing. Deeper understanding of different cases of crisis decision making is enhanced by using contrasting theoretical “cuts.” There are four major approaches to crisis decision making: the rational actor approach, the cognitive perspective, the bureaucratic-organizational perspective, and the domestic politics approach. Three case studies—the Cuban missile crisis, the Yom Kippur crisis, and the Iran hostage crisis—can be examined from the vantage point of each of these four theoretical perspectives, as each theory adds something valuable to our overall understanding of the nature of crisis itself.

Article

George Cheney and Debashish Munshi

Alternative organizational culture is an evocative yet ambiguous term. In disciplines like communication, sociology, anthropology, management, economics, and political science, the term leads us not only to consider existing models and cases of organizing differently from the norm but also to imagine paths and possibilities yet to be realized. The ambiguity and referents of the term are important to probe. The term and its associations should be understood historically as well as culturally. Alternative organizational culture also implies certain dialectics, leading to questions about both principles and applications.

Article

Joseph Walsh

Direct social work practice is the application of social work theory and/or methods to the resolution and prevention of psychosocial problems experienced by individuals, families, and groups. In this article, direct practice is discussed in the context of social work values, empowerment, diversity, and multiculturalism, as well as with attention to client strengths, spirituality, and risk and resilience influences. The challenges of practice evaluation are also considered.

Article

Gloria Hegge

Daniel S. Sanders (1928–1989) was an educator and a leader in the field of international social work. Perhaps more than any other social worker, he promoted the social development perspective and encouraged social work educators to consider social development approaches.