André Heinz (IU International University of Applied Sciences)


Topic: Collective Action Survey – An Instrument to Measure the Preconditions for Collective Interest Action

Thematic area: Political dimension in/of social work

Language: English 


If most social workers in Germany have no confidence in political decision makers to work for better framework conditions, but at the same time most social workers expect the state to become active as a problem solver (Heinz 2021), this leads to the consequence that no collective action emerges. Schroeder (2018) describes it as a “passivity trap” in the social professions. A clearly different empirical picture emerges in the comparison between German and American social workers. Here, ‘problem-solving competence’ – a central element in mobilization theories – is more clearly addressed more broadly. The lecture will present the instruments of the Collective Action Survey (CAS) as well as some central findings in an international comparison.
The state of research focuses on the subjective perception of collective action on the level of the employees, the empirical investigation of which is the subject of this contribution. For the methodological approach to the object of investigation, the central theoretical conceptions for collective action are applied and transferred according to the research heuristics. Aspects of Olson’s (1965) rational choice theory, Kelly’s (1998) mobilization theory, Goffman’s (1974) framing approach and Verba, Schlozman and Brady’s (1995) civic voluntarism model are taken into account.
The findings of the quantitative study for social workers in Germany show in the central Tedenz that the thesis of a majority of “apolitical” social workers (Seithe 2010, among others) is not tenable. The empirical results show that this is an obsolete narrative. Nevertheless, the conditions – based on the research heuristics – for collective action among social workers are very disparate. The degree of unionization in the U.S. is comparatively higher, which has various causes and makes a comparison of the subjective preconditions for political engagement among social workers interesting. This contribution compares and discusses the findings for social workers in Germany with the preliminary findings of an ongoing survey of social workers in the United States.