For the goal of this assignment I am going to analyse my personal experiences associated with power, privilege and difference. I am going to discuss the P. C. S levels of power drawn on by Foucault's interpretation of power. Together with an understanding of how my views have changed over the course of this module by reading examples from Peggy McIntosh's White Privilege.
I currently work inside a homeless hostel with service users who've different issues and reasons for surviving in a hostel environment. I got working with a nineteen year old woman who had a kid from a previous relationship and prior to moving into the hostel. The kid and her family were known to Social Services due to episodes of domestic violence within the family home. The service user came from a middle income family and lived with her mum and step father, who supported her in her decisions. However, her parents' relationship had broken down due to the domestic violence and the service user time for her partner who used extreme violence towards her in front of their child. The power that I had was 'power of authority' when i was a worker. I explained the results to her of her behaviour and that the way she was behaving could lead to her losing her bed. If she lost her bed she also risked not getting her child back. As she had not been showing any stability or commitment showing that she is capable to be a parent and has the ability and maturity to be a full time parent
At the time of working with this young service user I felt that I needed to be in a position of control and I used my power and privilege to ensure that this young woman did not perpetuate the cycle of deprivation, which had become her social norm due to her social influences. The energy and privilege originated from having a far more in-depth knowledge and understanding to offer the right degree of support and guidance.
Structurally, society is formed and controlled, by a couple of institutions, these being government, the law, education, religion etc. Peter Berger (1966), states that "Society not only controls our movements, but shapes our identity, our thoughts and our emotions. The structures of society become the structure of our own consciousness. "
Since completing this module I now recognize that my position of power, privilege and difference influenced my decision at that time. My practice could viewed as oppressive, controlling and discriminatorily, completing this module has enabled me to recognise this and made me think about my practise in terms of the positioning of power and influence I've in people's lives.
The difference between personal and professional values include, "professional values can be distinguished from personal values, in that personal values might not exactly be shared by all members of occupational group, for example, a person who works as a social worker may have an individual belief that abortion is wrong, but this is not one of the underlying principles of social work". (Banks, 2006, pg 7).
Using power I was able to challenge a person. Whilst working at the homeless hostel I have had to cope with a number of different people, there is one occasion where I needed to cope with a particular client who came for a bed and told us he was homeless as we must check our files and ban books, I asked the gentleman for his name, (he gave me a false name), I went and looked up his details and couldn't find him in the ban book, (a ban book is where in fact the names of individuals who are excluded from the machine are available) or on file. I started to do the admission when he explained that he had an automobile parked on hostels car park, as the automobile park is privately owned by Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council I asked the gentleman for his driving license, insurance documents and a valid MOT certificate, he gave me these without hesitation. I went to photocopy his documents and pointed out that the driving licence and insurance documents had a different name to the name he gave me on admission. Being on the safe side I went to double check the name and I ran across his name in the ban book and on file, the gentleman was at fact banned from the hostel due to being a Schedule one offender and then for assaults on residents and staff in various hostels. I went back in to the interview room to confirm details and the gentleman explained that both his names where correct and used. I called my colleague for assistance as the gentleman began to turn into a little aggressive and abusive towards me, I tried to calm the gentleman down but he started to become threatening, as there where another 28 people in the hostel I decided the best thing to do was to get hold of police to come and remove the gentleman from the machine.
At the beginning of this module I had been oblivious to the ongoing issues within the society relating to power, race and religion and difference is a white global issue. To be a white woman raised as a catholic, I realise and understand that there are other religions and cultures and various beliefs and values. I am aware that Christianity is not the only real religion.
I is now able to understand the privilege to be white, some basic areas of life have been overlooked and this has now made me widen my knowledge and awareness through experience to appreciate the energy and privilege a white person actually possess.
At the finish of the module I've realised that we all believe in several values and opinions, which all roll into the same answer, we all have been human who've their own power and privileges to make their own decisions, to be respectful and non-judgemental.
My personal values include life and family. The reason for it is because four years ago I had to make a decision that could change my life dramatically. I was informed by medical professions which i have problems with a heart condition and would require a heart operation. I discovered I was pregnant, that your hospital didn't inform me that becoming pregnant might lead to serious complications. 15 weeks into my pregnancy my world fell to pieces, my heart consultant gave me two options, terminate my baby or die having a baby. I have been empowered and had the data of what resources were available to me for me to make the right decision. I contacted professionals who provided me with guidance and support. Thankfully I made the right decision; I gave birth to a wholesome baby girl by emergency caesarean due to having preeclampsia. Six months after having my daughter I underwent heart surgery and being put on a life support machine due to problems and I recovered three months later. I had developed the power to remain strong and be there for my daughter.
After reflecting back on my activities of powerlessness, it came apparent if you ask me after reading Thompson (2006) on power the different levels of power that can be implemented, through the P. C. S analysis. This consists of personal, psychological level, such as individual degrees of thoughts, feelings and actions, that could be shaped by our very own experiences. However, we're able to greatly be influenced by a robust role of culture in forming our opinions. The cultural level really helps to form a context in which our personal experience occurs and pertains to the commonalities and values. The structural level compromises of any network of social divisions, it helps to relate with techniques of oppression and discrimination so they can be institutionalised. It denotes the wider level of social forces, the socio - political dimension of interlocking patterns of power and influence, (p28 cited in Thompson N, 2006). Additionally it is important to recognise that every level is embedded within the other and must be related to each other.
Foucault saw power as "something that people either did or didn't possess, but as an element of all social relations, a feature of interactions between individuals, groups and organisations. It is a fluid phenomenon open to constant influence and change. " (Thompson 1998).
I feel privileged knowing that I am able to speak a second language. Having another language also has its disadvantages, after i was at university studying my degree in AUTOMOBILE and Transport Studies, I used to be writing my study notes in Polish as I came across it easier, my lecturer challenged me using his power and authority by questioning my skills and knowledge of writing my notes in another language. I felt powerless wanting to reason with him.
In conclusion, I can positively relate to power, privilege and difference to my own personal experiences and have a good knowledge of these and exactly how they may be applied from my knowledge of this module. In addition, I am beginning to understand how they could be applied within key social work skills. The P. C. S style of power that I have learnt has widened by learning on all possible aspects of power relations. I can positively say that I've gained a far more in-depth knowledge and understanding about difference which I had no previous knowledge.