Markus Andrä (FH Dresden (University of Applied Sciences)


Topic: From Philosophical Abstractions to a Human Rights Based Practice

Language: English 


Ethics pervades the discipline and the profession of social work as well as all of its interrelated areas. Theory and practice are inevitably entangled in normative questions relating to social conditions. Referring to human rights is an essential tradition in this context. Nevertheless, dealing with this topic reveals many questions and far-reaching contradictions: How can we justify human dignity philosophically? What is the foundation of human rights? Can a standard for the practice of social work be derived from this? How can it be taught within a study course? How can it be internalised as a professional attitude? How can it be practiced in professional everyday life?

Normative guidelines for professional actions cannot be applied in a deterministic manner but only as a result of a critical, reflective, and dialogical discourse. Furthermore, thinking about social power relations requires continuous self-reflection and self-transformation as it cannot be carried out from an objective external point of view, since one‘s own attitude arose within the criticised social conditions and will be further influenced by them (Holzer, 2017). The space for such personal development has different dimension. Firstly, any ethical reflection starts with a self-discourse (Arendt, 2019). Then, there is the Socratic or ‘maeutic’ approach to strengthen progressive ideas or practice that have already been set up (Schrödter, 2006). Furthermore, it is also possible to try out alternative forms of practice in a politically creative and performative way. They have yet to be normatively examined, but already question existing power relations (Boal, 2018; Winkelmann, 2020). The presentation is an attempt to describe how we can get from philosophical abstractions to a human rights based practice.