08 Jun 2012

Technocratic vs. Justice Orientations

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One of the most interesting and important findings from my research of community-level responses to poverty and homelessness over the past several years relates to the distinctions–and considerable intersections–among and between “technocratic” and “justice” orientations of service.

By technocratic, I refer here to work that is transactional, objective, and, in some cases, emotionally removed/distant from the work and life-matters at hand. To a certain extent, many practitioners (both school and community-based) are trained operate in such manners. “Good practice” here is attached to particular strategies or structures. I’ve entered most of my studies wanting to learn more about these strategies and structures and have indeed gleaned what I hope is a pretty deep understanding about them. I am coming to see more and more, however, that “good practice” in contexts of schooling, homelessness, and poverty, is also attached to notions of justice. Whether defining justice from a Rawlsian “fairness” perspective or a CST one (including notions such as the preferential option for the poor), justice orientations are inextricably attached to the people, places, emotions — and very lives — in each community. The (seemingly) best social workers, teachers, and leaders that I study are effective because they go beyond “punch the clock” mentalities and are tireless in their striving toward equitable life opportunity for all. Their work is indeed strategic in many regards, but it is ultimately tethered more to moral motives than efficiency ones.

My hope is to expand upon this key emergent finding (hopefully in a much more eloquent and coherent manner than this five minute blog write-up!!) in the months ahead…  thanks for reading and let me know if you would like to join the discussion (pmmiller2@wisc.edu).


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