Social work as a profession and social workers as individual professionals often labor within the constraints of structural ambiguity. The historical emergence and location of the profession within the structure of a political economy whose normal functioning simultaneously creates the miseries of the profession's clients and the funds to serve them, poses a series of contradictions internal to the field and to most of its practitioners. The central expression of this conflict is hidden or mystified in social work education, thus preserving the legitimacy of the social structure while delegitimating or invalidating its oppressed populations. This process occurs through the utilization of defect or deficit-based problem definitional paradigms, thus justifying various forms of therapeutic interventions which deny the structural foundations of problems, or depoliticizing problems by absorption into the area of management and technological problem-solving. Transferring political conflict centered on the distribution of power and control over resources to the design and implementation of services derived from a defect model paradigm implementation expresses this latter tendency.

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