Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Hardy, M., Jobling, H.
Beyond power/knowledge—developing a framework for understanding knowledge ‘flow’ in international social work
(2015) European Journal of Social Work, 18 p. Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1080/13691457.2015.1043240

How are different ‘forms’ of knowledge developed, transmitted and institutionalised in social work? Foucault’s concept of ‘power/knowledge’ famously enabled us to understand such developments via the evolving methodological approach he variously referred to as archaeology, genealogy and governmentality. In this paper, we will use this and other conceptual resources as the basis for advocating an adapted and flexible methodological framework which constitutes knowledge as local, situated and embedded, but also dynamic, interactive and ‘flowing’ between actors, institutions and jurisdictions at an international level. The model has the potential for integrating two distinct cross-disciplinary approaches to understanding the operation of power within society: first, ‘an analytics of government’, specified by Dean as particularly useful in addressing ‘how’ questions and second, the potentially complementary approach known as historical–political sociology which seeks to integrate explanatory and descriptive causal formulations. Together, these act as a basis for extending Foucault’s formulation of power/knowledge to accommodate the dynamic nature of trans-disciplinary, intercontinental knowledge flow. We will examine the potential relevance and utility of the model using the example of how one ‘form’ of knowledge, in this case, policy knowledge, has informed the development of a particular approach to social work practice—supervised community treatment in mental health—in various Western jurisdictions over the last few decades. © 2015 Taylor & Francis

Author Keywords

community treatment orders; governmentality; historical–political sociology; knowledge; mental health; social work

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