Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik

An independent international centre for advanced studies


12 Jun 2016 - 18 Jun 2016
Course directors:
Vito Flaker, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Mari Nordstrand, Sor-Trondelag University College, Norway
Course description:

What works in social work? – Towards a syntax of doing

This course seeks to explore the development of social work knowledge and its use in different countries. It examines a range of theoretical models and takes into account the significant influence of traditions, culture and politics on the development of diverse models in different countries and on social work as a whole. Previous topics have included: construction of social work identity, risk, assessment and management, measuring success and outcomes, knowledge base in working with diverse groups, ethical dilemmas in regard to management and policies, improving strategies and methods; methods and techniques in different countries, strategies in the climate of austerity.

Course directors (alphabetically):

Vito Flaker, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Michaela Moser, University of Applied Sciences, St. Poelten, Austria

Mari Nordstrand, Sør-Trøndelag University College, Trondheim, Norway

2016 Organising director:

Vito Flaker,

University of Ljubljana, Slovenia


The course title – Theories and Methods– can be expressed as Praxis. In social work, theories are needed to do a better job – which is mainly to improve people’s lives. The explanation is not sufficient – effect is what people need.

Social work is engaged on many planes of existence. It is anchored in everyday life (life-world), but also transverses across legal, financial, organisational, political and cultural matters, in order to achieve the its goals of empowerment, (social) security, access to public and common goods and solidarity.

We will try to pinpoint the basic social work operations and examine how they, in practice, link to the various resources and frameworks of action (movements, state, market, networks). We will try to explore how they interact with the space, actors, define the objectives and produce professional ethics. We will seek to construct, not the idea of social work, but the machine that works. This will be achieved by relating our experiences, drafting the blueprints and looking for the means of empowerment. Also by digging into the history to find and deconstruct the elements that hinder or promote our actions.

The notion of democracy is nothing but a univocal concept, neither in the history of the political thinking nor in the social movements which refer to it. There are a lot of democratic concepts: radical democracy, deliberative democracy, representative democracy, participatory democracy etc.

This polysemy raises fundamental problems of political philosophy. Does democracy belong to the civil society, or is it a form of government, or is it both, and how is the relation then? The current liberal option tends to favor the civil society which is interpreted mostly in market-terms. No wonder that in this case the state is considered as a mere implementing bureaucracy or technocracy. – This leads obviously – especially but not only on the transnational European level – to a crisis of representation and legitimacy. The participatory democracy can be seen as an attempt to close this gap. But the reverse of the medal is that it puts forward societal issues and that it creates a new critical front opposing societal claims to the constitutional framework. Are there alternatives to parliamentary democracy available, which are not less egalitarian? And is transnational egalitarian democracy possible.

This comes out onto the most fundamental problematic of the constituent of power and political autonomy. If power and political economy are to coincide (which might be in the end the perspective of democracy as such), which are then the concrete political forms answering this problematic? And what does that mean under conditions of accelerated and economy driven globalization and europeanization? Whereas the blackmailing power of the economy increased dramatically through globalization, the blackmailing power of workers and unions, of peoples and parliaments, which are mostly reduced to national influence, decreased at the same time.

The question must be examined again from both ends: starting from the social movements on the one side, and from the constitutional conceptions on the other side. Of what kind are the new political movements? Which concepts of democracy – from populist issues to democratic participations and self-administration – do they put in the forefront? Which is the offer of political theories capable of taking up the challenge?

Attached documents