A postmodern perspective on professional ethics

Amy Rossiter, Isaac Prilleltensky, Richard Walsh-Bowers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Postmodernism’s invaluable and deeply problematic contribution to the human sciences can be summarised through its declaration of the ‘end of innocence’ (Flax, 1992). To our minds, this declaration has opened space for important critical thought in professional fields like social work or psychology. These disciplines have traditionally relied on a belief in objectivity as a legitimating characteristic of the ‘special knowledge’ that forms the distinction between professionals and lay people. Postmodernism’s insistence on the connection between power and knowledge ends the possibility that there can be knowledge that exists independently of human interests. Such a claim has propelled critiques of the professions as effects of power rather than bearers of innocent knowledge deployed to ‘help’. These critiques have challenged the guarantee of progress of professional knowledge by ever-better scientific foundations, and have instead, raised questions about how the invention of the human services has taken place (Margolin, 1997; Rose, 1996). The shift from ‘real’ to ‘invention’ initiates a crisis in what we understand counts as professional knowledge, and at the same time, we argue, opens space for aligning professions with a radical democratic project.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPractice and Research in Social Work
Subtitle of host publicationPostmodern Feminist Perspectives
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)0203981979, 9781134646913
ISBN (Print)0415195128, 9780415195126
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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