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Caring power : coercion as care

  • Kerstin Svensson
Publishing year: 2002
Language: English
Publication/Series: Outlines: Critical Social Studies
Issue: 2
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen

Abstract english

The article analyses the compulsory care of drug misusers in Sweden. An historical analysis of this field of work as a part of the Swedish welfare state highlights historically changing legislations, institutions, understandings and practices. Following Foucault, it is argued that it is impossible to distinguish between power and care and that confusion about coercive care is a result of not acknowledging power. Empirical studies of current social work point to the significance of different institutional settings. The author’s study of the Swedish probation service shows that social workers and clients may adopt different positions in relation to each other and that their experiences of the practice of social work depend on the congruence or disparity between these positions. The problematic role of motivation in coercive care is highlighted. While some scholars claim that motivation is not possible in coercive institutions, the author relates motivation to the caring power arguing that social work is always aimed at normality and that care is exercised to achieve normality. The promise of an improved life situation may make people in need of help adapt to the demands of the helper, and the caring power can be seen as a way to provide help for individuals who do not realize that they are in need of care.


  • Social Work


  • ISSN: 1399-5510
Kerstin Svensson
E-mail: kerstin [dot] svensson [at] soch [dot] lu [dot] se


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