Beyond power/knowledge: Developing a framework for understanding knowledge 'flow' in international social work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 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 draws upon, integrates and advances two distinct cross-disciplinary approaches to understanding the operation of power within society: firstly, ‘an analytics of government’, specified by Dean (1999) as particularly useful in addressing ‘how’ questions; and secondly, the potentially complementary approach known as historical political sociology (Hay 2002, Loader and Sparks 2005, 2012, Melossi, Sozzo and Sparks 2011) which seeks to integrate explanatory and descriptive causal formulations. Together, these act as a basis for extending Foucault’s relatively ‘static’ formulation of power/knowledge to accommodate the dynamic nature of trans-disciplinary, intercontinental knowledge flow. We will illustrate the potential relevance and utility of the model using the example of the way in which one ‘form’ of knowledge (in this case, policy knowledge) has informed the development of a particular approach to social work practice - Community Treatment Orders in mental health - in various Western jurisdictions over the last two decades
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Cite this