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Why we should stop talking about objectivity and subjectivity in social work

Munro, Eileen and Hardie, Jeremy (2019) Why we should stop talking about objectivity and subjectivity in social work. British Journal of Social Work, 49 (2). pp. 411-427. ISSN 1468-263X

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Identification Number: 10.1093/bjsw/bcy054


In debates about knowledge in social work, the terms objectivity and subjectivity are frequently used with varying degrees of positive and negative connotations. We argue that the terms have become so ambiguous that they should be avoided. In its place, we suggest focusing on the individual attributes associated with objectivity and subjectivity and consider how the desirable attributes can be strengthened and the undesirable ones avoided. This division differs significantly from the typical objective/subjective division. We examine three key social work issues: the contribution of empirical research, dealing with dissent, and the role of the personal. When the attributes of objectivity and subjectivity are examined in detail, it becomes apparent that they vary in how desirable and how feasible they are. A more precise use of language makes it easier to see the contributions of values, bias and power in social work policy and practice and reduce the risks of people over-claiming the reliability and neutrality of their assertions.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 British Association of Social Workers
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 29 May 2018 15:48
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:27

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