Social Philosophical Analysis of Critical Discourses on the Cultural Competence

문화적 역량 비판 담론에 관한 사회철학적 분석

  • Received : 2011.05.02
  • Accepted : 2011.06.01
  • Published : 2011.08.31


It is very interesting phenomenon that despite a broad consensus on the need for social worker to take cultural aspects into professional practice, thus to be a culturally competent, a number of materials criticising the concept of cultural competence have emerged in these days simultaneously. The main purpose of the study is to clarify such phenomenon, which means that this article is trying to analyze the contents of such critical discourse on cultural competence and the validity of those contents. The result of the study finds out that most of the arguments can be categorized into three aspects: epistemological, ethical, ontological, and that most of the main ideas of the critical discourses have been borrowed from a branch of critical social work theories, especially highly influenced from Foucault and Derrida. This article argues that critical discourses have some significant problems which make a conflict with traditional values and tenets in social work as a human service profession. First, epistemologically, the critical discourse fails to differentiate the matter of discovery from that of justification, which brings the cultural competence to the brink of agnosticism. Second, ethically, insisting that there should be no foundational criteria for cultural hierarchy in term of rightness or goodness, the critical discourses reveal their intrinsic limitations in solving ethical dilemmas and conflict in real world, which can be considered as a kind of evasion of responsibility in disguise of cultural relativism. Third, in practical vein, critical discourses are largely in effective in specifying the concrete model to realize their own ideas, and furthermore they unintentionally promote context-blind perspectives that eclipses the significance of structural and systematical impacts on the cultural identity.