This article reflects on the important sociological contribution made by Manuel Castells. The potential implications for social work theory and practice are considered, especially in relation to his theories of networks and power. The article acknowledges Castells's thesis that we are witnessing a ‘transformational’ phase in social development, as ‘networks’ become fundamentally significant as a vehicle for ordering and shaping human lives. The interactions within and between social networks are considered, especially in relation to the domains of social work practice, and their inevitable concerns with processes of inclusion/exclusion and oppression. In light of these reflections, Castells's typology of network/power is introduced, and the relationship between structural and relational aspects of the typology is considered. The capacity of power-infused networks to construct and organise people's experiences is acknowledged, as are the implications for those who use social work services, and are often the objects rather than the subjects of power relations. Set against this are arguments for the potential to develop forms of ‘resistance’, for instance through ‘network-making’; this is exemplified by reference to social work practice. The article concludes with positive messages for the social work project, to the extent that practitioners are able to adopt a capacity-building role.
Smith, R. (2013). Castells, Power and Social Work. The British Journal of Social Work, 43(8), 1545-1561. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcs073