USER INFLUENCE AND ACTION CONTEXTS IN PSYCHO-SOCIAL PRACTICE

ENGLISH SUMMARY

This book reports a research project aimed at theories and methods for the enhancement of user influence in psycho-social therapy, funded by the Danish Council for the Humanities.

 

1.   The Contradictions of the User Perspective and how to Practice a Critical Psychology.

“User Perspectives” and “User Influence” is widely, including officially, claimed as a key word in research and development in psycho-social therapy. At a closer look, however, the idea suffers from the self contradiction that psychological expertise is essentially either identical or antagonistic to representing the user’s perspective or enhancing user influence.

This contradiction is managed in various ways within user perspectives research. Most general discussions of the topic, and surveys in the positivist trend, tend to ignore the problem and, with it. also the relations between the perspectives of user, therapist and research which determine the relevance of the investigations. Some (like therapeutic movements) develop a user’s perspective by proselytising the user into the ideology of the therapists. Others (notably in the vicinity of the “client-centered therapy”) reduce manifest professional language to lay concepts and therapy to “non-specific factors”, hiding expertise beneath it. Still others take on a content-neutral meta-perspective towards therapeutic interaction, thus avoiding zones of conflict.

A user’s perspective only gains logical consistency when established and articulated in critical opposition to therapy. This is viable when it is presented in a critical psychological frame of understanding which particularly points critique at 3 basic assumptions underlying the rationale of traditionel psychological therapy: That psychological problems are characteristic traits or problems of individuals; that these may be met and handled in the context of immediate therapeutic interaction; and that the systematic intervention of the therapist results in sought-after modifications of the personality or the state of the client. Whithin such a critical understanding, in contrast, the psyche - including psychological problems - are seen as societally mediated action with subjective reasons, and the traditionel individualism, fixation to the immediate, and manipulation, is seen as an expression of the societal contradictions with which therapy is imbued.

However, when a user’s perspective is applied in an empirical realization of such an understanding, in a direct critical study of the therapy involved, it is problematic when research becomes a parallel track with its own interpretations of the user’s perspective, unrelatedly opposing that of the therapists. Research is in itself a psycho-social practice, thus a reflective component in the development and fundamental transformation of this practice towards a real and substantiel participation of the users as subjects.

This is the starting point of the “practice research” of “critical psychology”, to which this book aims to contribute. The initial questions of this thesis arise from that context: On the one hand the demand on the part of the “practitioners” that the researchers convert abstract criticism into concrete methodology; and on the other hand the researchers’ urge that the practioners exchange abstract methodology for an orientation towards the concrete contents of practice.

Thus, the question is: How can I conceptualize concrete, local, societally mediated practice to handle fundamental changes to this practice?

 

2.   A Problem in Critical Psychology

The issue of how to construe concrete, local practice is closely connected to the turn of critical psychology towards a “science of the subject” in its reformulation of the activity theory.

It was precisely the purpose of the concept of activity, in general and in its distinct forms, to unite the psyche and society in locally organised action. But without sufficient theoretical analysis of human individuality in its historical origins, activity theory was caught in a dichotomy between “functionalistic” socialization and deviance of the individuel to culture. The concept of activity, though made to mediate between society and the individuel, veiled this dichotomy, rendering its empirical and practical applications ahistorical and functionalistic.

Critical psychology, in its reconstruction of individuality, evidences a basically “problematic” relation of the individuel to society, implying that structures of meaning face the individuel as action possibilities, and that mental processes must be understood in a “first person perspective”. Thus conceptualised, psychology is no longer mainly a science of the individuel, but for the individuel.

The next problem concerns how such a “first person perspective” is construed in relation to general societal meaning structures. Methodologically, it is the subject’s own criteria which determine the relevance of the issues studied, implying that sociologically established research topics are substituted for concepts at a categorial level (i.e. at the level of general human potentiale) in the structuring of research. The idea of an individuel subject’s perspective developed in a solely categorial, intellectually derived framework must however be considered a kind of “methodological solipsism” which is incongruent with the general theory of the subject-science.

As a consequence, the categorial structures are either thought to directly form practice or merge with issues at the actual empirical level (i.e. at the level of specific sociohistorical issues), so that a critical reflection of the sociohistorical genesis and impact of these latter issues is neglected. In the field of psycho-social therapy this makes a critical analysis of prevailing ideas, however comprehensive, avoid the issue of the establishment and transformations of the key concepts around which therapy is constituted. The idea of “therapy” is used to delimit an arena for the contrasting of theoretical paradigms rather than a discussion of “the paradigm of therapy” is connected to its developments in practice, which could form an anchorage point to critical psychology.

The starting point towards overcoming this theoretical problem must lie in categories about the supra-individual social organisation of action, in a theory of action contexts.

 

3.   Draft of a Theory of Action Context

A theory of action context and its methodological implications is formulated at the categorial level in a critical scrutiny of subject-science concepts pertaining to the local organisation of action. Whereas Holzkamp, with his “science of the individual”, placed the individual vis-á-vis the totality of a societal action context, Dreier introduces a multiplicity of action contexts and provides concepts on the individual’s participation in them. However, Dreier, maintaing the perspective of the individuel subject as he does, loses grip of the constitution of the action context as a “we”, and with it. its active aspect.

The task is thus to find a way to determine the particular action context from its own perspective, and to clarify its relations to other structures of societal practice.

 

In the theory proposed here, an action context is a societal structure of ends and means organised around their accomplishment in individuel action. This means that it is essentially constituted in mobile relations between common ends-means-connexions and discrete grounds.for-participation of the participants.

The action context is established by its mediating connections to the societal totality and it is at the same time constituted with a cooperative subject - a “we” - with a certain object and a certain set of relevant conditions. The action context thus organises inter-subjective relations between participants, positioning them in locations, i.e. scope of action possibilities, to which perspectives are connected, and in which participants form standpoints, i.a. subjective ways of participating and relating to the action context.

The inter-subjective constitution of the action context may well include, or under certain conditions be reduced to, opposing interpersonal or societal interests, and the unspecific aspects of the action context may dominate in a relative sense.

The action context must be distinguished from the fixation of its conceptual structure in language, its meaning structure. This generates the question of the relations between the “tacit” conceptual structure and the explicit - possibly logically formalised - account which may be used as a means in the action context and its constitution. Accordingly, the locations of the action context must be distinguished from their institutionel representation and regulation as “roles” in various precepts, standards, etc.

 

The methodological implications of the theory are sketched. A dialectic materialist theory of science is taken as basis, in which research is understood as a practice, the relations of which to other practices are determined through notions of concepts-in-practice, ideal concepts, prototypes, and theoretical concepts. Practice research is then construed as a speciel located cooperation of practices, a joint venture. Understanding research as a practice, the object of which is the general in other practices, and seeing development efforts as original, reflective production of the general, allows for a conception of the empirical cooperation in practice research as a transformation of references for both practices.

From this point one may further investigate how a practice becomes “psychological” practice, that is, the construction and possible alteration of a psychological issue, and how the relations between psychological and sociological general concepts unfold in practice.

The joint venture of practice research is realised in action contexts, the constitution of which according to the principle of subjectivity must be reflected theoretically themselves. In this respect, it is particularly consequential that psychological analyses at one and the same time interpret grounds-for-participation and form the object of action contexts, which thereby continuously reconstitute themselves.

 

4.   Concepts to the Action Contexts of User Influence

Chapter 4 reconstructs developments in the basic concepts-in-practice in which the attempts to change psycho-social treatment are engaged, and in which the forming of action contexts play an important role.

The analyses of Foucault and his followers of the “psy sciences” as discourses is a central approach in this field. This approach seems incongruent with that of a science of the subject, since it tends to over-emphasize the logic of power, that is, the relations of production; but historical studies basing on developments in productive forces, in particular changes in strategies of social integration due to increasing qualification requirements, can reasonably be added.

 

A user influence, challenging the rationale of therapy, paradoxically sides with a proclamation of ever new human problems to be diseases needing therapy. This paradox may be understood through a reconstruction of the development of the discourse of therapy in two steps.

In the first step the issue of “subjectivity” within a science-of-control paradigm is formed with the advent of the autonomous, private individuel. The abstract-general individuel, facing societal norms with his bare biological individuality, is realised and handled in institutionel practice. The binary concepts (ill/well etc.) structure basic expulsion processes around the labour market, but they are also differentiated into a continuum of institutionel facilities. Autonomous power fields defined through diagnostics are established within the institutions and regulated with the paradigm of therapy: The idea of the therapist mastering the cure of the sick towards normality.

In the second step the client is endowed with a psychological co- responsibility for his adaptation. A self reflection organised in psychotherapy is instituted parallel and opposed to the continuum of facilities. With this formula, therapy can cross its limits, expand its object field and is itself tranformed in the process. The therapist is detached from the institution and meets the client in a “privileged non-context”; carceral measures are moved into the background and submitted to therapeutic efforts “tailored” around the individuel and her self-responsibility.

 

The pivotal status in this field of the concept of power may express a real cultivation of power in the autonomous institutions. But with psycho-therapy the necessity of adding an approach derived from the substance comes to the fore. Apart from struggles in social politics - which despite the welfare state compromise never quite died down - it is in the development of qualification requirements that we may find a background for this “decentralisation of bio-power”.

Right from the advent of the concept of qualification development tends towards still higher and more specialised qualifications required. Differential qualification and its flexible application increasingly presupposes a general qualification of the individuel, that either tends to challenge the overall framework of the qualifications concept or is construed as selvreflective meta-capabilities bound to the individuel.

This development in qualifications infuse the psycho-social institutions and confront their traditionel normative discipline. Emphasising individuel general qualification and a self-responsibility organised in a psychotherapeutic fashion, the institutionally regulated expulsion is gradually transfigured and gives way to a much more general expulsion emerging as the shadow image of the structuring of social integration in loosely interrelated activities. Psycho-social practice is then either set up in “non-committing” activities with limited obligations towards participants or in individuel reflection processes, the means and objectives of which remain unclear in their societal mediation.

The question then arises as to whether I, chiefly from the angle of the “non-committing activities”, may achieve new general concepts on the materiel conditions and connectedness of participant individuals, the connections between individuel and action context, to replace those which dissolve together with the paradigm of therapy.

 

5.   Empirical Material

Chapter 5 describes the empirical materiel used in the thesis.

It consists of joint ventures with 6 development projects in the field of psycho-social work. The descriptions vary considerably, as do both the projects and the course of the research ventures. I try to give an impression of the research processes as courses of deliberate actions, so that the materiel from which I select in the analyses of the following chapters may be present as a whole. The emphasis lies on the cooperation with Brugerservice[1] and specifically its sub-project Madkapellet[2], since these ventures best give access to a discussion of the course of the research activities.

 

Brugerservice organises, together with local cultural and political initiatives, joint projects in which long-time welfare recipients are employed as “assistents” under rehabilitation. The project is co-funded by a government programme of “activating”, and administratively forms part of a larger private organisation for social institutions and projects in Copenhagen. It employs 6-9 social workers and between 35 and 65 assistents. Brugerservice in the period of research had activities in areas like a civic canteen, rock concert arrangements, galleries, community centre, off-set printing, radio, café, internal clearing and office work, and ecology (see below).

The cooperation here described ran from november 1990 to approximately november 1992.

It started with 6 monthly Contact Meetings with part of the staff, prepared and after-reflected in writing. From the summer 1991 onward the cooperation is expanded and joined by stud.psych. Helle Brynjolf Pedersen. Activities included broad observations, interviews etc., and specifically 2 activities: A succession of monthly Whole-day-meetings with the staff, and 18 weekly evaluation meetings with the participants in Madkapellet.

 

Økologiske Igangsættere[3] began as a sub-project in Brugerservice, but soon branched off as a project of its own. More accurately, it is a community of projects that initiale and run activities in city-ecology, integrating rehabilitation and qualification of its participants. It has existed since february 1992, funded by a mixture of the rehabilitation system and other state activation programmes, volunteers etc.

I joined a work group preparing the project as a school, and since then I have taken part in the reference group. I also contributed in developing the project’s self-evaluation procedures in the course of 1992.

 

Ama’r Totalteater[4] was a youth project supported by private funds and government social and cultural development programmes. It organised big cultural/political happenings controlled by participants but with some cooperation with local youth clubs. Together with Sven Mørch and Torben Bechmann Jensen I made a follow-up evaluation of the project based on the experience of the project group (Bechmann, Mørch & Nissen, 1993).

 

FRIGG[5] was an “activation” project for female welfare recipients between march 1990 and the fall of 1991. 2 part-time psychologists arranged individuel and group counselling, and “Open House” thematic discussion or performance activities with around 15 women. I held 4 thoroughly prepared discussion meetings with the psychologists.

 

Askovgårdens Dagcenter[6] offers activities for persons with very deep psychological and social problems - mainly psychiatric patients. The staff are social workers with close access to psychologists and social counsellors. The activities are connected to a local cross-sector coordination of social provisions in individuel cases.

Between april 1991 and july 1992 I joined 16 group meetings of which 11 were especially formed in an attempt to discuss user experience with the Day Centre and with other facilities. The process was also discussed in 8 meetings with staff.

 

Regnbuen[7] is a “progressive”, free-of-charge psychological counselling facility run as an activity in the House of Students at the University of Copenhagen. Between 10 and 20 activists - mostly students of psychology - provide individuel counselling to between 20 and 30 users. From november 1990 to august 1992 I took part in 3 general activist meetings and 7 speciel meetings in a sub-group on user influence.

 

6.   Content Analysis of the Action Contexts of Psycho-Social Work

Chapter 6 presents the analytical approach - content analysis of the action contexts of psycho-social work - through a discussion of a few types of action contexts which I met in practice and which are treated in the literature.

 

An episode from the Madkapellet is displayed in which two distinct constitutionings of the action context of the meeting confront each other and alternate: Is this a debate over influence and competence in a grass roots project, or is it an attempt to involve assistents in the pedagogical planning of their own rehabilitation process? That must be examined in its connections with the mediated references of the action context - connections which just appear observably in such an equivocal case.

 

In the Rainbow I examine the attempt to overcome psychological therapy from within, that is, holding on to the concept of “counselling” as the key heading. This way one can challenge the normative dimension of the paradigm of therapy, and also try to connect the individuel with the societal; but the fundamental constitution of the action context in the counsellors’ concepts and around a potentially unlimited totality of the user’s psychological problems created an asymmetrical relation of care and thus an ethical issue, which remained the same no matter how much the counsellors claimed to be “progressive”.

 

FRIGG illustrates the concept of “self-help groups”. These were supposed to form a half-way step from the non-committing or care-oriented activities in FRIGG to the goal of self-sustenance, but this was hard to realise in project practice.

The empiristic concept of self-help is a common denominator of a multitude of diverse experience, put together in an abstract negation of professional help. Hence it is of little use in an analysis of the concrete relations and transitions between help and self-help. Understood as an action context, any self-help group tends to stick to its once determined object, and any development in this will challenge individuel grounds-for-participation in unmanageable ways.

In FRIGG the non-committing thematic discussions were used as an entrance to more extensive psychotherapeutic relations of care. However, to re-convert this help into self-help - together - presupposed a different notion of what the FRIGG women had in common. To this, the project’s feminist and social political references were apt candidates, the relevance of which remained sadly untested due to the closing of the project.

 

Finally, I look into an example of “social group work”, defined as “professionally guided conversation groups with activities, but without therapy” (Just Jeppesen, 1991; 20). Once again an empiristic concept formed in abstract negations - of individuel social case work and of psychotherapy. From Askovgårdens Dagcenter I present an episode from a Primary Unit Group showing how it is constituted on the premises of the general expulsion, as a self-sustained activity with the staff person as absolute authority and with the non-committing participation of the user. What resembles an “armistice” is maintained, in which the activity both functions to connect the relations of the user to various professional facilities and measures, and as a refuge from demands, obligations, conflicts etc.

 

7.   Counter-Stigmatisation. Local Culture. and the Implicit Pedagogy

Two sets of ideal concepts compete as possible rationales to the more wide-ranging overcoming of the paradigm of therapy attempted by Brugerservice: One the one hand, the subject-science concepts of action contexts, and on the other, an interactionist theory of “counter-stigmatisation” and “frame design”.

An interactionist conception transferred into principles for a practical “frame design” existed in the background of Brugerservice, and this was the rationale in the initial project design. In this, the employing of the assistents to serve the users of the project is meant to be organised in communication frames designed to give them a positive feedback and identity in a “counter-stigmatisation” process.

At the time of my association with Brugerservice there was a polemic about the concrete realisation of the method. On the one side, staff persons with experience from Ama’r Totalteater contested that a “frame design” rested on 3 untenable presuppositions: The very fact that staff designed the frames indicated a preestablished role structure which in itself imposes stigma; grass-root projects cannot be designed ready-made in advance, but are continuously re-defined in practice; and these projects are not stage sets, but real life. These objections can be phrased in ethnomethodological theory and thereby open to important general understandings of project developments and its psycho-social aspects.

But the staff idea of projects “with a substance” was directly opposed to an official version of the “frame design” model which expressed the paradigm of therapy in its most abstract and general form as a simple adaptation to “regular labour”. Facing this model urged the staff to develop a “project identity” that challenged the paradigm of therapy at an equally general level.

The decisive step was the notion of “the quality project”, that is, developing pedagogy as a social dimension to activities in themselves culturally or politically meaningful. In order to develop this idea, 3 methodological steps are suggested: 1. Determining cultural meaningfulness and its potential for integration of a social dimension; 2. Analyses of the (sub-)project as an action context; 3. Analysis of individuel grounds-for-participation.

 

To understand cultural meaningfulness I use the concept of culture proposed by Højrup et.al. and search for conceptual structures for self-relying forms of mundane practice. The concept of “local culture” is suggested to term a practice that reaches across the borders dividing societal sectors of “production” and “reproduction” by organising an extended daily life in an ideological framework. Such a local-cultural practice is only self-relying thanks to a political dimension through which it reproduces its conditions and simultaneously interprets and organises itself.

The local culture’s potential for social integration is determined by the form and the degree to which it defines itself by defining and organising the daily life of its participants. The general contradiction between extending and selfrestricting action potency (cf. Tolman & Maiers, 1991) is expressed in the relationship of mutual presupposition in the ideology of the local culture between political self-determination and potential for social integration.

In contrast, prevalent concepts of “community” often consist of empiristic brews of unrelated factors conceived as mere opposites to institutionel measures, and viewed from the perspective of the state. That way it remains obscure how it is thought to be invoked as a remedy in psycho-social work.

 

In Brugerservice local-cultural meaning structures are taken in as “indexical references” in the development of the sub-projects. In this process, ever new concretions and revisions of ends and means are made possible, for projects and participants alike. This was blocked or blurred if the process were understood as a negotiation between Brugerservice and the “grass-root organisation” in question, to which pedagogical goals were to be stated explicitly. Rather than such “social/pedagogical goal-orientation”, Brugerservice used a speciel project-maker’s craft, in drafting, recruiting for, beginning, running and reflecting a project. Within this thinking, the content of the projects, i.e. ends-means and grounds-for-participation, were typically included in the form of implicit references. A theoretically articulated pedagogy must therefore unfold as a development and concretion of the local-cultural references to the sub-project, specifically pertaining to their psycho-social aspects.

This presents another form of reciprocity between concepts-in-practice of the person and the action context than the one known in the abstract and static notions of clients and institutions in the paradigm of therapy. A concrete, subject-oriented developmental thinking is realised in mobile mutual constitutions of projects and persons. An “implicit pedagogy” unfolds in action contexts that do not take the psycho-social as their object, and which thereby allow for a participants’ control through maintaining pedagogy’s references to the common practice.

 

Despite such ideal concepts of implicit pedagogy it was required that we also dealt with how the psycho-social aspects may be made explicit. From the angle of the ideal concepts, any explicitation must itself come about in action concepts managed with implicit references, following a kind of “antenna pattern”. Moreover, explicitation of the psycho-social may take place in the democratic ruling of the sub-project, since in these meetings references are elicited both to ends-means and to grounds-for-participation. Thus, we here encounter a “user’s perspective” on the psycho-social in which participants’ control and psycho-social work tend to merge.

However, these ideal concepts were not directly realised in the concrete practice of Brugerservice. Rather, the action contexts to which I gained empirical access were imbued with contradictions in the conditions of the project and its strategies towards them. An analysis of these matters must therefore precede any further discussion of how the psycho-social was handled explicitly in practice.

 

8.   The Project as a Reflecting Agent

Under the conditions of the Danish social policy of experimenting, the development project present itself as a relevant prototypical agency for reflecting efforts to develop social work. It has the potential to make development a methodology by reproducing its ideological identity as a development project. Thereby it may avoid freezing preestablished general aims or reducing them to abstract standards of self reproduction.

This idea is opposed to the widespread notion that any development project should merely clarify consistent objectives basing on a scientific appraisal of the problem to be solved. Such a conception ignores that developmental aims are subject to concrete, conflicting interests, and consequently impedes an understanding of the mediation between theory and practice.

The alternative is that the project reflects the considerations with which its objectives are put together. We developed and tested such a procedure in Brugerservice under the term “considerations analysis”. The project is seen to realise functions for social agencies acting as interested parties, whose managing of their interests in these function in turn form conditions in the reproduction of the project. The significance of these “functional relations” to the project are taken as considerations in its objectives. An analysis of the functional relations with their inner contradictions, inter-relations, developments, mediations etc., can be used to sketch strategic action possibilities for the project, as concrete, qualitative relations between general developmental aims and (a totality of) specific considerations.

With this approach, an analytical guideline is set up that unbinds the project’s goal orientation from preestablished notions of “clients”, “program administrators” etc., and also construes general conditions mediated in their significance to a local practice reflecting itself.

A considerations analysis was done in Brugerservice emphasising considerations for municipal authorities, state development agencies, assistants, and local culture interests, and concrete action possibilities were discussed relative to these considerations.

The consideration for staff was, to begin with, postponed. This permitted a contradiction in this consideration to obstruct attempts to relate considerations analysis to the principal identity of the project, since staff interests also directly formed part in the constitution of the meetings in which we undertook the analysis. I then hypothesised two distinct modes of being employee: Project-makers, who used the job as a way to realise projects that made out their vocation, resembling a farmer’s attitude to work, and social workers relating to their job as qualified labour with pre-defined tasks. The project management thus confronted two incompatible ideals of “participatory management” which stalled the attempts at collective reflection.

The ways in which reflection was distributed across action contexts in the organisation proved a further obstacle. It was typically either addressed to specific interested parties, fragmented into specific development tasks or tied too closely to administrative routines.

The constitution of the project, or of its action contexts, as segregated, immediate practice, can also imply a fixation of its ideological identity when its general references are defined as external conditions for an immediate, taken-for-granted “we”. This may in turn result in a dichotomisation of developmental contradictions, that is, segregation of their sides onto separated action contexts or practices, concealing their actual reciprocity.

Finally, the project’s organisational structure and task distributions may tend to incapsulate contradictions. Thus, the fact that staff often occupied “floor management” positions was seen to encapsulate problematic relations between Brugerservice and its sub-projects, between hierarchy and participation, and psycho-social issues were still liable to be delegated to special action contexts.

 

9.   The Explicit Reflection of the Psycho-Social

Chapter 9 deals with the constitution of the action contexts in which the researchers took part in explicitation of the psycho-social in Brugerservice.

 

The experiment was ventured on the grounds of what was called “the problem of the individuel dimension”: By “bracketing” individuel psycho-social problems in an “implicit pedagogy” in local-cultural projects, the problem arised of managing them in separate action contexts structured as therapy and with unclear or problematic relations to the daily work in the sub-projects. The problem presented itself as work load priorities, continuous “exceptions” from the principles, and as wide differences between the sub-projects. We rejected stipulations to balance the “individuel dimension” with a “project dimension”, since the “individuel dimension” at any rate co-determined conditions for the sub-projects.

In stead, we decided to try to find ways to make explicit the psycho-social on the sub-projects’ own local-cultural basis, with their democratic management as the starting point. The psycho-social is then kept within the “psycho-social mandate”, i.e. in action contexts constituted around ends-means-relations concretely connected to local-cultural meanings. Keeping the mandate also implies that any dealing with psycho-social issues directly influences the social identity of participants, i.e. the social definitions of their locations in action contexts of daily practice.

We could not, however, base on a consistent, local-cultural meaning structure, since this would imply a dichotomic neglect of Brugerservice’s rehabilitation considerations. Rather, the aim should be to generalise local-cultural ideology so far as to directly engage with Brugerservice’s social political conditions, to raise a “social political consciousness”. To this end, we launched a sequence of weekly meetings in the sub-project Madkapellet. The remainder of the chapter chiefly concerns main issues in that process.

 

During the first period Madkapellet is constituted as an increasingly ambitious team-work, with the staff member as foreman. Taking “the food as the main thing”, a division af labour is established in which some assistents occupy locations with inferior authority and responsability. This called forth a psycho-social problem field concerning distribution of authority and the standpoints taken by these assistents, while at the same time, however, constituting Madkapellet with a psycho-social mandate too narrow to address their grounds-for-participation. A process of expulsion resulted.

The second issue concerns the constitution of Madkapellet on the basis of an absolute staff authority which tended towards embracing daily practical as well as individuel psycho-social matters. This became apparent in a conflict situation, in which our dealings with the psycho-social aspects of the conflict leads to their reduction to a plain “disease” explanation with which the assistent is able to defend his social identity.

The situation of the staff member is reconstructed, and his authoritarian leadership is made understandable when related to his and Madkapellet’s complicated position in Brugerservice and in the cooperation with the local community centre. Hired as a maternity leave replacement, he concentrates his efforts as a “canteen manager” and looses the feel for the standpoints of the assistents in a self-amplifying dynamic.

A discussion of the development in the local-cultural references of Madkapellet follows. To begin with, Madkapellet held the position of a civic canteen mediating between local “project networks” and welfare recipients. A speciel local-cultural identity as a civic canteen combining social service and city ecology was emerging. During this period, however, the development turns towards a professionalisation of the work - commercial relations to customers, formal division of labour (e.g. the hiring of a “cook”), and plans for formal training in kitchen work. In the same period, Madkapellet is presented to welfare officials as a well-defined activity particularly suitable for weak assistents. This meant a segregation of the psycho-social which was aggrevated by the fact that the professional standard, never reaching beyond pseudo-qualification, set a normative dimension that produced personification of psycho-social problems and conflicts. When we discussed the distribution of authority at our meetings, we only achieved a reduction of this development to abstract, inter-personal matters.

An anonymous “responsability” was idealised, which allowed us to overcome personifications in concrete conflicts, but at the expense of our understanding of their individuel reasons, especially since the conflicts often concerned the established “professionel” role distribution, and had the “cook” in a key position.

The links between psycho-social issues and democratic management are at this point altogether cut off. and the assistents’ lack of influence is then mystified as their personal lack of self-assertion. During the final period the conflicts aggravate, and our meetings are used as attempts to control them. When finally the staff member bars any discussion of the “cook”, the assistents conclude that the meetings are pointless.

 

Conclusions from this development are drawn pointing to action possibilities at several levels.

 

First, the explicitation of the psycho-social in our meetings is discussed. The experience that the horizon of the meetings was gradually narrowed, together with our action possibilities for influencing the process, could point to a more systematic use of the circumstance that psycho-social questions most often assume the quality of “abstracts” whose concrete mandate are then reconstructed. The “abstract” appearance of the psycho-social can be conceptualised and explicitly focussed. Hereby the (at times, lacking) preconditions for an extension of the mandate may be established.

 

The development of Madkapellet is evaluated differently from different perspectives. The assistents first narrowed their judgements to a critique of the management style of the staff member, then turned exclusively to assess individuel consequences for themselves. The staff member wanted a more consistent priority given to professionalisation, of the assistents’ work as well as his own social work, in Madkapellet and in other Brugerservice sub-projects. The reader of Brugerservice believed that assistents’ influence should have been set as a ground rule which could have prevented the unsuccessful and mistaken professionalisation. The complementary appraisals point to how organisational distances and the in-between “floor management” role mediated a contradiction beteen Brugerservice’s ideal concepts and the consideration for welfare officials’ demand for well-defined activities for the weak assistents.

 

Finally, the development in Brugerservice and other “local-culturally oriented” development projects is discussed in relation to the problem of connecting individuals and action contexts in new general concepts.

In a local culture this question presents itself as its degree of control its conditions and the generality of its psycho-social references. Both in Brugerservice and in Ama’r Totalteater we identified a dichotomisation in the form of organisational splits between strong local cultures and a more ambiguous project organisation that on the other hand maintains more general psycho-social objectives. This way the segregation of the psycho-social is reestablished as well as the problem of (dealing with) general qualification/expulsion. Also, the project identity becomes a mixture of its general development objectives and - chiefly through the structuring of accounts in the internal organisation of the projects - an ideological clouding of this crucial barrier to these same objectives.

The key to overcoming these problems lies essentially in a strengthening and realisation of the local cultures’ conditions as social agents. But against the ideological clouding one may possibly add a more consistent explicitation of the contradictory conditions and the related limitations of the psycho-social mandate of the projects.

 

10. The Research Process

Chapter 10 reflects the research process, beginning with a methodological discussion, then presenting a social psychological analysis of the research joint venture and my own participation in it.

 

The first issue concerns generalisation in practice. In a science-of-the-subject methodology, generalisation leads to hypothetical concepts about action possibilities and their reasons. In the development of theory a movement is made from the specific to the general, from “pre-concepts” to their scientific reflection and transformation.

This movement is unfolded in practice in the reference transformation of the research joint venture. Using a concrete story about developments in Brugerservice sub-projects, it is described how references are taken in, transformed, and generalised in the research joint venture. Ruptures and contradictions in the development are reflected through generalisation and theoretical analysis of practical experience. Once the theory is articulated, it may be seen to unfold and specify general concepts present in prototypical practice.

The practical realisation of generalisation points to a feature which has not as yet been discussed in science-of-the-subject methodology, focused as it has been on the articulation, communication and ensuing application of the general: The realisation of the general in specific ideological forms that also co-determine the constitution of the research joint venture.

 

When the direction towards objectivity is understood as a process of transforming a local scientific standard, generality and objectivity become two closely connected scientific criteria pertaining to the relations of research to other practices, i.e. its relevance. Relevance, in turn, is reciprocally related to theoretical consistency, i.e. the inter-relatedness and congruence between theoretical concepts. Together, relevance and consistency form basic criteria for scientific validity. The relevance of theoretical analyses depends in part on how they are transformed and applied in practice, and partly on whether they reproduce or develop ideological references in practice.

 

My theoretical references and agendae were to a quite large extent transformed in the course of research. Not least, I was required to integrate theories of discourse and ethnological theory in the empirical implications of the theory of action contexts that were developed in the cooperation with Brugerservice. The social psychological analysis of concepts-in-practice necessitates such transgression of scientific disciplines; yet still, it must be validated by its relevance as a specifically social psychological issue in any given (or potential) field of practice.

 

The application of analyses should not be identified as experience with an immediate realisation of predictions through a line of command from research to practice. Rather, analyses inform standpoints in discussions in and about a socially distributed practice, and their general and particular aspects form hypotheses the relevance of which extend in time and through fields of practice widely exceeding the horizon of the research joint venture itself. However, my discussion of the use of my analyses is limited to forms and problems to which I have had access in the course of research with Brugerservice.

In the first phase, my analyses were chiefly used to establish a common project identity. Along with this use, people in different locations in the project were increasingly interested in connecting analysis more directly to discussions closer to concrete practice in the sub-projects, and at the same time more committing in relation to the project as a whole.

The growing mutual commitment lead to a more central position of research in the project’s reflection processes, as was evidenced in the considerations analysis. The considerations analysis, and its connection to project identity, was at one and the same time used in the collective strategic orientation of the project and in structuring the reflection of the conditions for this. This placed the analyses at a central spot in the splitting of the project, for better and for worse - they facilitated to some extent a conscious reflection of the division, but also, the use of analysis was itself split up in two incompatible forms.

In the final phase, the analyses were used partly as an ideology for the remaining Brugerservice, partly to guide more specific joint ventures. In Madkapellet a problematic separation occured between the (somewhat corroded) ideological reflection of Brugerservice and Madkapellet’s own process. The analyses formed standpoints in Madkapellet’s discussions which in a paradoxical way both served as a reference for its ideological constitution around the concept of “responsability” and as grounds for objections to the distribution of power.

 

Summing up, it is concluded that with a more organised continuation of the research joint venture at the level of Brugerservice as a whole it might have proved possible to prevent that the use of analyses was caught in the dichotomisation of the project and in the problematic distribution of developmental problems in action contexts.

 

Turning to the question of developing ideological references, the initial establishing of a common project identity was an important development, reorganisation, and generalisation of the concepts then present. On the other hand, the ensuing separation of Økologiske Igangsættere was on the whole an ideological fixation of the problematic separation between implicit, local-cultural pedagogy and explicit psycho-social practice. This has generated new hypotheses, the relevance of which, however, remains to be clarified.

 

The social psychological discussion of the research joint venture is organised in 3 general issues.

The general conditions of a research joint venture must be analysed as they set the action possibilities for accomplishing research and enhancing its relevance. In Brugerservice, an important precondition for the main themes of the investigation was that the project placed itself somewhere between considerations for rehabilitation and those for continuous self-promotion as a front-line development agent, but it was also an important cause for the difficulties in providing the effort required for the practicing of the research joint venture.

In an understanding of the power issue in the research joint venture, it should be recognised that these must be closely connected to practical action possibilities and requirements, that is, to the concrete, local necessity and possibilities of overcoming power relations.

The developmental dynamics of the research joint venture first of all results from the interaction of the developments of the practices engaged. Their discontinuity appears to produce accidental interlockings of the references for cooperation, yet these should be linked to the objective, general aspects of development, thereby reconstructing a continuity. Such links are already represented in the institutionalised and routine character of practice, and as such, they may be construed as relations between developmental contradictions and their ideological forms. This in turn is a precondition for any understanding of the condensation of development in action contexts.

 

Finally, my own participation in the research joint venture is discussed, completing the process analyses in the preceding chapters.

The revisions of the research agenda implied in the cooperation with Brugerservice lead to - as yet rather unclear - consequences for my position in the scientific community, and presupposed conditions to allow such changes.

I engaged in the joint venture with a certain - partly stilistically expressed - academic reticence to the project’s immediate reflection requirements. This maintained a researcher’s standpoint and allowed for a meta-perspective on the project’s reflection, but it also made the cooperation vulnerable to changes in the general constitution of the project, especially its splits and organisational segregations. This reticence matched the project’s above mentioned limited ressources for reflection.

At times I occupied locations of chiefly technical functions in the project’s reflection, as consultant supervisor, moderator, etc. Particularly in critical phases this meant a temporary bind to existing ideology and power relations.

 In Madkapellet the researcher’s standpoint became entangled in problematic relations of the joint venture and of the sub-project to other action contexts in Brugerservice. The potentials that lay in the fact that the research joint venture had its basis across action contexts were insufficiently utilised, since the summary analyses I gave coincided with the partiel curtailment of Madkapellet itself.

 

I conclude to assert the critical analytical approach which I have taken towards the research process as towards the other practices discussed in this book. This is not done with an intention to climb down from the analyses I have put forward, but rather to provide means to appraise them in the unremitting strive towards scientific relevance.

 




[1] Translates close to “User Service”, the “users” here being the recipients of the project’s various products.

[2] I.e. the “Food Chapel”, since it resides in the Chapel Street next to a large graveyard.

[3] I.e. “Ecological Initiators”.

[4] I.e. “Multi-media Performances of Ama’r” (the Copenhagen island).

[5] “FRIGG” was the ancient Mother Godess in nordic mythodoly.

[6] “Askovgården Day Centre” - the name linking back to the original association of this private organisation with the christian folk high school Askov.

[7] I.e. “The Rainbow”.