Doctoral Candidate, School of Humanities, Queensland University of Technology, PO Box 245 Redcliffe, Queensland, 4020, Australia.
Fiona A Campbell - Work in Progress - Not for Citation without permission.
wish to congratulate you for your courage in publishing Michael Bleasdale’s
critique of [“SRV”]. For too long Wolf Wolfensberger’s messianic treatise on
“normalization”, and more recently “SRV”,
has gone unchallenged in the Australian scene..
(Parmenter 1994: 5)
of the central contradictions of normalisation [“SRV”]
is that while it purports to re-value people with disabilities, it is rooted in
a hostility to and denial of “differentness”.
having given such a negative meaning to abnormality - the non-disabled world
assumes that we wish to be normal, or to be treated as if we were.
From this follows the view that it is progressive and liberating to
ignore our differences because these differences have such negative meanings for
(Morris 1991: 17)
arrival of Social Role Valorisation Theory
(hereafter referred to as “SRV”)
into the Australian “disability” body politic in the early 1980’s
represented, at least at a public level, a new paradigm of “disability”
talk. To use Foucauldian language, “SRV”
is best described as a disciplinary technique, a form of “biopower” concerned with the regulation, manipulation and
transformation of the unruly bodies of people with disabilities. The “SRV”
apparatus is a maze of complex mechanisms concerned with guiding principles of
human service delivery, both at operational and “client” based levels. It is
also engaged as an evaluation tool. As such the introduction of “SRV”
has not only been instrumental in the development of new methods for the
“management” of disability, the very
discourse of “SRV” has
effected the constitution of the “disablised body”[i]
within social policy and legislative reforms. Contrasted with the unenlightened
era of the “old” bio-medical paradigm, “SRV”
is presented as a new “liberating” paradigm offering new hope and valued
lives for the “suffering” individual.
discourse analysis, in this paper I will put forward three propositions about “SRV”.
Firstly, I will show that it is questionable whether “SRV”,
represents a departure from the bio-medical discourse of “disability” (as
suggested by its exponents). Instead, I will argue “SRV”
can be understood as a recuperative
strategy which extends the tentacles of bio-medical disciplinary practices,
appearing at the very moment medical
dominance has waned and undergone contestation. Secondly, it is my argument that
“SRV” is a technique that coerces
a particular form of human self - the
sovereign individual of liberalism who is rampantly autonomous, competent and
rational. Finally, I argue that “SRV”
can be seen as an incitement to hetero-normativity.
paper is divided into four parts.
First, I analyse the history, diversity and application of “SRV”. Next, I expose “SRV’s” heteronormative compulsion.
Then, I turn to a critical reading of “SRV”.
This includes an exposé of “SRV’s”
Parsonian structural-functionalist roots as well as its fundamentalist, “New
Right” standpoint. Finally, I
explore, albeit briefly, the legislative impacts of the hegemony of “SRV”. Unfortunately
it is beyond the scope of this paper to explore in detail the way
“disability” is put into law and understandings of the welfare state.
History and Diversity
precursor to Social
Role Valorization Theory in the disability field was known as the Normalization
Developed by Neils Bank-Mikkelsen
of Denmark and Bengt Nirje of Sweden in 1969,
normalization was essentially a tool and mechanism to examine the lives of
people prescribed as having an “intellectual disability”. Nirje in 1969
defined normalization as
available to all mentally retarded people [sic] patterns of life and conditions
of everyday living which are as close as possible to the regular circumstances
and ways of life of society.
(Perrin and Nirje 1985:69)
within this definition is the presupposition that the “social body” should
be inclusive and “integrate” people with disabilities. A formulation utterly
consistent with liberal rights theory. Writing fourteen years later, Nirje is
explicit about the tradition within which the normalization principle stands.
Trained in philosophy and law, Nirje wished to extend the purview of the Universal
Declaration on Human Rights promulgated by the United Nations in 1945, by
enshrining notions of equality and humans rights into an “ethical values”
theory that would compliment the law in bringing about change
implementation of normalization theory takes “culture” as its starting
point. Nirje’s ideas about “culture” were influenced by American
anthropologist Ruth Fulton Benedict (1887 - 1948), especially her influential
1934 work Patterns of Culture
. So, for Nirje
meant following the “normal rhythm of the day, week, year” and the “normal
development of the life cycle” making up the “normal” conditions of life.
The ability of an individual to engage in the “normal” conditions of
life, Nirje contends is determined
by the type and severity of disability inherent in the individual.
examples of “normal rhythms”
are defined in Nirje’s work, “culture” is presented as an organic and
, and as such
remained unproblematised and universalised. It would appear that the concept of “normal rhythms” is
based on what might be called “benchmark” assumptions concerning the life of
an elusive “normal” member of the community
. Such a citizen expresses the virtues of
masculinity, rationality, autonomy, activity and detachment.
Wolfensberger’s understanding of normalisation which will be discussed later
in the chapter; “integration” for Nirje is predicated on a fundamental
equality and integrity of person, “meaning to be yourself among others - to be
able and be allowed to be yourself among others”
the normalisation principle is not meant to be prescriptive, yet Nirje’s own
work appears to be profoundly culturally - bound and hetero-sexed. In “The
Normalization Principle” (1976), section titled “Living
in a Heterosexual World”, Nirje states:
also means living in a heterosexual world … handicapped [sic] people sometimes
suffer a senseless loneliness and it may
be better for them to be married like anyone else.
(Nirje 1980:43 ~ emphasis
could be said that Nirje’s observations were a step on the way to recognising
the hetero-sexed nature of the “disablised” body, but let us not be too
generous! Aside from the
paternalistic nature of his remarks, Nirje was thoroughly hegemonised about
matters of relationality, let alone the changing and problematic concept of
“family”. In fairness to Nirje, the normalization principle does advocate
the right to make choices and the right to self-determination.
Writing nine years later, in the midst of contestation around the “real
meaning” of normalization, Nirje errs on the side of “choice” and
diversity, when he says:
as (within certain limits which vary from society to society) a “normal”
individual may engage in popular non-conformist or even “deviant”
behaviours, the normalization principle implies that the same right also should
apply to … handicapped [sic]
(Perrin and Nirje 1985:71)
position, we shall see in the following section, is in sharp conflict with the
views of Wolfensberger who has
become the dominant “voice” in the debate.
1972 United States based Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger developed his own version of the
normalization principle “into a guiding principle for the design and conduct
of virtually any kind of service”
(Wolfensberger and Thomas
theoretical congruence between Nirje’s and Bank-Mikkelson’s concept of
normalisation and the Wolfensberger approach is questionable. Though influenced
by Scandinavian developments, Wolfensberger argues that he “elaborated,
universalized, refined and systematized”
and Thomas 1983:23)
the principle as originally conceived by Nirje.
Yet a significant, though subtle, epistemological and methodological shift has
occurred. Nirje’s liberal rights-based “values theory”, normalisation
became transmogrified into Social Role Valorization theory “SRV” and has according to Wolfensberger become a universalised,
higher order, “scientific” meta-theory of devaluation
defined “SRV” as encompassing
“as much as possible, the use of culturally
valued means in order to enable, establish and/or maintain valued social
roles for people”
(Wolfensberger and Thomas
1983:23 ~ emphasis added)
relies on two strategies to facilitate the movement of “devalued” people
into becoming “valued” members of “society”.
The first strategy is to reduce stigmata; and the second, is to change
perceptions of community members through the re-valuing of “devalued”
people. The methods utilised to
activate such strategies are incorporated into service provision goals focused
upon the enhancement of a “devalued” person’s social image and
competencies. Stanley Cohen
(1985: 183 - 191)
in the context of criminology, but equally
applicable here, described the “cognitive passion” for testing (judging
normalisation) by “professionals” and bureaucrats.
The obsession in “SRV” to
produce “competency enhancements” that conform with a fictitious “…
typical citizen [who] … has a culturally normative degree of personal autonomy
(Wolfensberger and Thomas
masks the masculinist basis of the liberal subject
of western modernity, erasing alternative ways of living human subjectivity.
The normalising “gaze” of “experts” is extended to the testing
and ranking of “human service” agencies.
Susan Thomas, Wolfensberger developed PASSING (Program Analysis of Service
Systems’ Implementation of Normalization Goals),
a service provision evaluation tool which is “a device for the objective
quantification of the quality of a wide range of human service programs … and
even entire service systems”
(Wolfensberger and Thomas
. Each service provider engages in a process of
self - production - surveillance; a ritual of “truth - making” in order to
map - construct - conform to “SRV’s” imperative.[iii]
The Seven Core Themes[iv]
of “SRV” constitutes the
framework of “SRV”-in-action and
an outline follows:
role and importance of (un)consciousness in human services;
relevance of role expectancy and role circularity to deviancy-making and
conservatism corollary of normalisation;
developmental model, inclusive of competency enhancement;
the power of
and relevance of social imagery; and
importance of personal social integration and valued social participation;
(Wolfensberger and Thomas
1983:23 - 29)
brief perusal of the seven themes suggests the centrality of values and cultural
valuation in the effective implementation of “SRV”. Although recognising that subordination, or in
Wolfensberger’s language “devaluation”, is culturally relative,
insists that “SRV’s”
object is twofold, namely, to “capitali[ze] upon cultural values and the need
to change at least some of them”. The question of “who” decides, in the
event of a value conflict, which values prevail, is not particularly addressed.
It is assumed that the human “community” is a social system
structured around a homogenous or shared (or at least consensual) value base.
The “social” is a biological organism, its capillaries made up of
norms and values.
“SRV” appears to uncritically reinforce such a
construction of social ordering by its emphasis on the reduction of
“devaluation” via the prevention of “differentness” or stigmata that may
result in “devaluation” or marginalisation from the mainstream.
The following examples support this conclusion:
deviancy is , by definition, in the eyes of the beholder, it is only
realistic to attend not only to the limitations in a person’s repertoire
of potential behavior but attend as much as or even more to those
characteristics and behaviors which mark a
person as deviant in the sight of
others. For instance, wearing a
hearing aid may be a greater obstacle
to finding and keeping a job than being hard of hearing.
(Wolfensberger 1972: 28 ~
emphasis added )
“shame” of “disability” is further highlighted by the need to avoid body
sculpturing that as Wolfensberger & Thomas
put it “unnecessarily draws attention to
devalued physical characteristics, such as a close-cropped brush haircut on a
man whose head and ears are malformed…”.
Such strategies, I argue do violence to the integrity and corporeality of
the person with a “disability” and sends mixed messages about the repugnance
- unthinkability - intolerability of “disablised” bodies.
rest of this section will concentrate on the “conservatism corollary”, one
of the “seven core themes”. According
to Wolfensberger, the “conservatism corollary” posits that:
greater the number, severity, and/or variety of deviances or stigmata of an
individual person, or the greater number of deviant/stigmatized persons there
are in a group, the more impactful it is to: (a) reduce one or few of the
individual stigmata within the group, (b) reduce the proportion or number of
deviant people in the group, or (c] balance (compensate for) the stigmata or
deviancies by the presence, or addition, of positively valued manifestations.
(Wolfensberger and Thomas
clarified the meaning of promoting positively-valued manifestations within the
“conservatism corollary” by arguing that it was preferable to choose the
more positive (or conservative) option. In
other words, the corollary requires that human service workers overcompensate
to reduce or minimise any “devaluing characteristics”.
reality of the corollary is that it does nothing to interrogate and challenge
hegemonic ideas that exclude, separate and subordinate people with disabilities.
Instead, the tenets of the corollary actively
promote separation between and within groups of so-called “stigmatised”
a significant proportion of people within a distinct or compact group have one
or more such oddities, then the whole
group including non-stigmatized members, is apt to be negatively stereotyped.
(Wolfensberger and Thomas
1983:26 ~ emphasis added)
so-called “oddities” include “retardation”, a “speech impediment”,
an “odd” hairstyle and mannerisms and the wearing of “odd” clothing. The
“normalised” body in contrast is one that presents as “clean, neat,
fashionable, and flattering grooming and dress”
(Wolfensberger and Thomas
tenets of the “conservatism corollary” are in sharp conflict with Nirje’s
understanding of the normalisation principle that advocates the right to make
“choices”, even if those “choices”, are as he puts it unpopular.
But where does the Enlightenment notion of the individual as a free and
knowing subject fit? According to John Armstrong, a senior “SRV” trainer, “freedoms are bought at the price of
compliance, a cooperation with the “rules” of society”.
He believes that the consequences
not be changed by thrusting vulnerable
people into circumstances where it is
they, and not us, who receive the onslaught of societies [sic] retribution
when they innocently and unintentionally act upon our advice - or it’s lack -
and unwittingly violate some societal principle.
(Armstrong 1997 ~ emphasis
interpretation of “freedom” at the hands of “SRV”
erases the agency and capacity for subordinated peoples to negotiate their/our
own subjectivities. The epistemic and physical violence of “SRV” is best illustrated in Wolfensberger’s advice for
dealing with “aberrant” and unruly flesh:
surgery can often eliminate or reduce a stigmata, and can be as effective in
enhancing a person’s acceptability as teaching adaptive skills, changing his
[sic] conduct or working on his feelings.
(Wolfensberger 1972: 104)
are denied a deliberative capacity to adopt a resistive positionality. Such a
statement reveals the ableist hegemonic standpoint of Armstrong as well as the
“benchmark” speaking position of “SRV”.
Hetero-normativity or, we may be
“disabled” but we can still be “real” men and women!
normalising gaze of “SRV” comes
into force in the operation of the “conservatism corollary”, a corrective
technique that simultaneously marks out boundaries of permissibility for bodies
inscribed as “woman”, “man”, “queer”, “respectable” and so on. The policing of sexed boundaries is revealed in a reading of
the PASSING Manual’s narrative on the ‘Promotion
of Client Socio-Sexual Identity’, rating 225
(Wolfensberger and Thomas
. A pursuit of “valued sex roles” translates
into a disciplinary technique that figures hetero-normativity as self-evidently
preferable and “natural”: “Adults may choose either marriage and
parenthood, or singlehood” raters are advised
in facilities act as mentors for “appropriate” sex role development (461 -
order to proffer a reduction in stigmata and overcompensate for
“devaluation”, the corollary requires that the “disablised subject”
adopt ableist and heteronormative postures.
The body marked for “transformation” and “taming”, is required to
suspend its life-flow and our/its very expressiveness, by engaging disciplinary
“tactics”. For in the end, “where clients are devalued, they should be
supported in more conservative socio-sexual role developments” (463).
ensure that the borders of sexed bodies remain fixed, Wolfensberger recuperates
the naturalised body in order to
ensure that there is no “matter out of place”
, rendering the unruly “disablised” body
bounded and potentially knowable:
rather than those [bodies] which may be avant-garde or common, but only
marginally valued at best … A delicate balance [must be struck] between
acknowledging culturally normative and prevalent sex role stereotypes on the one
hand, whilst simultaneously try to avoid sexism … raters are advised to be
somewhat conservative if an aggressive
anti-sexist measure would result in the projection of a deviancy image upon
(Wolfensberger and Thomas
1983: 468 ~ emphasis added)
other words, such bodily abjection, necessitates that:
the issue of sex role stereotypes … becomes especially troublesome when societally devalued people are at stake …the
image of already devalued people should not be further endangered by associating
such persons with images and
activities which are marginal in the larger culture (462).
dissolving of permissible boundaries may subvert and indeed contaminate the
“correct” ordering of “nature” which is already under siege. Adherence to a heteronormative conception of reproduction
within the context of marriage would reduce the moral complexities
characteristic of late modernity
(Wolfensberger 1994: 406)
then posits certainty of sexed roles:
would probably be harmful to the image
of a mentally retarded [sic] man for him to spend his work day at tasks which
have historically been thought of as ‘women’s work’, or to be encouraged
to occasionally wear a skirt because women often wear slacks. [In other words],
… devalued people should not be at the vanguard of breaking down sex role
a combination of sarcasm and snide remarks, Wolfensberger has discursively
re-packaged the equal opportunity (gender neutrality) goals of liberal feminism
in a way that makes these aspirations only available to the elite “valued”
few and unrealistic, if not counterproductive to “integration” of
of Wolfensberger permeate “SRV” and it is for this reason that feminists and
others “othered” need to continue to foreground its violence, dangerousness
“SRV” internet web site[vii]
represents “SRV” as a strong,
vibrant and coordinated international movement spanning at least seven
countries. Indeed, much of the language and rhetoric used by Dr. Wolfensberger
and his followers closely resembles the style typical of “far right” and
fundamentalist religious cults. Individuals who transgress the “SRV” holy writ are subjected to the full force of “SRV”
zeal and shunning. Indeed Hilary
Brown & Helen Smith
support this observation and note that “the
commitment and fervour which it [“SRV”]
can engender in individuals has led to it being likened to an evangelical
movement, with associated doctrinal squabbles and schisms”.
recently, critical attention has focused upon “SRV’s” methodological flaws, either as a “deviancy”
(Campbell 1984; Graycar,
Dorsch et al. 1986; Brown and Smith 1992a; Bleasdale 1994a; Bleasdale 1996)
and more recently, its construction of
(Branson and Miller 1992;
Oliver 1995; Rapley and Baldwin 1995)
. Aside from Lindley and Wainwright
, few references have been made to the
socio-religious context of “SRV”.
This is surprising given the reference that Dr. Wolfensberger has made to
Christian influences upon his own work.[viii]
I believe that these religious foundations are critical to understanding the
stance and direction of “SRV”.
the late 1980’s the language of moral coherency has crept into the work of
Wolfensberger and the Training Institute of Human Service Planning, Leadership
and Change Agentry, whose mission is to read “… “the sign of the times”
and interpret their meaning for human services”
According to Lindley and Wainwright
trainees are asked to “examine the negative dynamics of a society which
opposes rational and moral goals and to explore the difficulties which await
those who pursue such goals”. Much of the language of the Institute is has a
and is obsessed with the destruction of civility, and with “evil” and “deathmaking”.
“Deathmaking”, a central concept in
Wolfensberger’s thought is defined as “any action or pattern of
actions that brings about or hastens the death of any person or group”
(Wolfensberger, quoted in
Lindley and Wainwright 1992:31)
The outline of a four day workshop states that the curriculum will cover
issues that require urgent attention:[xii]
event is intended for people who (a) perceive there is gathering momentum in the
world that works towards “deathmaking”; (b) are uncomfortable with a
pick-&-choose approach that endorses some “deathmakings” in the world
but objects to others; and [c) would like to work towards a more coherent
position on the sanctity of life.
(Social Role Valorisation
is not surprising then, to discover an increasing convergence between the
millenarianist concerns of the Christian far right in the US and the mission of
the Institute, headed by Dr.
Wolfensberger.[xiii] The Grace Baptist
Church, who describe themselves as “a fundamental, independent … Church”,
in their Cutting Edge, a weekly radio
show, cry out that “our society is deteriorating, and Bible believing
Christians are ill-prepared to face that deterioration”.
(Cutting Edge Ministries
somewhat conjointly, is also concerned. He says
are witnessing the collapse of civilization …
a rejection of the Graeco-Judeo-Christian morality that has been the
basis of Western culture, morality and polity for up to about 1600 years”.
goes on to announce that the views of Dr.
Wolfensberger who, introduced to listeners as “ … a Jewish Holocaust
survivor and born-again Christian”, denounces the ushering of a “new world
order” and decries inter alia the
intentional killing of 200,000 people per year in the United States:
are killing far more handicapped people per year, than the
Nazis did between 1939 - 1945 … deathmaking is normally so repugnant
that, when you see one public instance of it, you can rest assured that as much
as 100-fold has occurred secretly that no one will ever see it … Remember that the New
World Order has a goal of forced reduction of the world’s population by
two-thirds by the year 2,000.
(Cutting Edge Ministries
1996 ~ emphasis added)
the Grace Baptist Church’s use of Dr. Wolfensberger’s material constitute a
mere appropriation of his views to support the agenda of the Christian right, in
ways not intended by Wolfensberger? Whilst
there is a paucity of evidence at this point in time to support a direct
connection between “SRV”,
Wolfensberger and the New Christian Right,
the sentiments expressed in Dr. Wolfensberger’s recent works appear to
support such a claim. Practitioners of “SRV”
and Moral Coherency workshops are
called upon to take a “coherent stance against deathmaking”
by becoming zealous advocates of “SRV”.
us re-cap after what may appear as a digression.
Part of the task of discourse analysis is to expose and lay bare that
which appears self-evident, as inherently problematic.
Like with other new “technologies”, Australia was quick to pick up
and respond to the “SRV” fervour originating from the United States. “SRV’s”
adoption into the Australian polity has occurred in the absence of much critical
The remaining two sections of this paper, then, will firstly survey these
critical voices and secondly, indicate the influences that “SRV” has had in developments in the law and social policy.
Genealogy of Critical Voices
is a great silencer and as such speaking can involve risk. It was not long ago that critics of “SRV” risked “silencing”, reprisals and threats of dismissal
by employers and de-funding of service provision
(Graycar, Dorsch et al.
1986:27; Parmenter 1994:5)
. This section maps out critical responses to
social role valorisation theory from a broad spectrum of commentators. My thesis
is not the first to foreground concerns about
However, to my knowledge this presentation is unique in bringing together
a synthesis of critiques in one text
so that the reader can grasp key focal concerns.[xv]
Whilst there are differences in emphasis, the critical literature lends
support to the view that “SRV”
privileges ableist normativity and maintains the racialising and sexing of the
“disablised” body through disciplinary practices that assimilate and invoke
separation between people with “disabilities”. In presenting my argument, I
will commence with an outline of Nirje’s response to Wolfensberger’s
“reformulation” of normalisation. Next,
I will identify three clusters of concern:
the methodology, practices and effects of “SRV”.
Perrin and Bengt Nirje (1985) contend that “SRV”
is predicated on a substantially different epistemological base from the
principle of normalisation as conceived by Nirje and therefore cannot
be considered as “a reformulation, refinement, or operationalization” of
(Perrin and Nirje 1985:
. The shift in the epistemological grounds of
normalisation from an “ethical values theory”, based on human rights, to
that of the “positivist scientism” of “SRV”,
produces profoundly different effects on the way “disability” is mediated.
In this respect, “SRV” can be
understood as a discursive manoeuvre. Nirje
argues that “SRV” with its
emphasis on conformity and the acquisition of culturally valued roles sharply
contrasts with normalisation which emphasises the integrity of the person
(Parmenter 1994: 5; Rapley
and Baldwin 1995: 145)
to make her/his choices
(Brown and Smith
, her/his self- determination
(Perrin and Nirje 1985:
and the importance of “an individual’s
subjective experience of self”
(Szivos 1992: 114)
“SRV” promotes the pursuit of culturally valued forms of
self-determination for the person with a “disability”, but, if a
“preference” is in conflict with what is defined as “appropriate” or
more valued, then the latter must take priority.
Perrin and Nirje’s response to such a process is damning: “this
authoritarian approach, however benevolent in its intentions, represents an
unwarranted abuse of the powers of the therapeutic state” (1985: 71). In
summary, Perrin and Nirje argue that “SRV”
is essentially an ideology that promotes “passing” in society and the
ensuing minimisation of “deviancy”. The kinds of “deviancy”, I believe “SRV”
has in mind, are deviations from hetero-normative corporeality and the
autonomous disembodied “self” of liberalism.
founder of structural - functionalism, Talcott Parsons developed a universal
theory of society which, “did not so much justify capitalism (although it
often did) as offer an explanation and understanding of its difficulties without
(Craib 1995: 379)
“systems theory”, as it became known, emphasised a system “built up around
norms and values”, in which a “system of “status roles” developed … to
which expectations of behaviour (and rewards and sanctions for fulfilling or not
fulfilling those expectations) are attached” (382).
Wolfensberger’s transmogrification of “SRV” into a “values theory” resulted in a closer alignment
with Parsonian functionalism
(Bleasdale 1996: 6)
, though this is not made explicit.
In fact, a more accurate
rendering would put “SRV” as a combination of societal reaction theory and
(Burton 1983: 54, 55;
Chappell 1992: 39)
so, Rapley and Baldwin
argue that ““SRV”
has not drawn widely upon the theoretical extensivity of its supposed
theoretical underpinnings”. A number of writers argue that functionalist role
theory is outdated and inadequate to explain the marginality of people with
(Szivos 1992: 116;
Bleasdale 1994a: 17)
because of a focus upon “social problems” at the individual and/or
sub-cultural level, little “thought is given to the possibility that the
source of the problem lies not within
the system but is the system itself”
(Mullaly 1997: 124)
positive reception and dominance of “SRV”
within “disability” discourse in the United States, Australia and the United
Kingdom, has been due to the appearance of a “scientific” style of
reasoning, an “empiricist persuasiveness”
(Szivos 1992: 115)
. Historically well timed, the development of “SRV”
“fortuitously coincided with the zenith of the cultural hegemony of
“science” as an infallible
(Rapley and Baldwin 1995:
though, Wolfensberger argues that “SRV”
is self-evidently valid, using positivist-empiricist criteria, “SRV”’s
tautological reasoning fails for it is not amenable to refutation.
sharpest criticisms have been reserved for the jargon of “SRV”, which according to Bleasdale and Graycar is “convoluted
and elusive … designed to convey a mystique that [is] out of proportion to its
meaning and context”
(Graycar, Dorsch et al.
only does this language remove the “theory” further away “from the
(Bleasdale 1994a: 18-19)
, but I argue that “SRV” does violence to the
experience of people with “disabilities” and reifies the power of
language is important as it plays a role in the discursive production of
this case, the discourse of “SRV”,
whilst purporting to be a cutting edge paradigm of “disability”, in fact
acts as a recuperative strategy involving a “repackaging” of the binarism of
The violence and subordination experienced by many people with
“disabilities” is referred to as “wounds” in “SRV”
training, which Bleasdale
(1994a: 18 - 19)
argues obscures instances of systemic exclusion
and shifts the emphasis away from a “rights” focus towards a therapeutic
model under the power of the expert’s “gaze”.
notion of “devaluation” is a pivotal concept in “SRV”.
Brown and Smith
point out that “devaluation” involves the
exercise of power and thus should not be viewed in a passive way. The important question of agency is left unaddressed and
absent, if not erased from the discourse of “SRV”.
delineates that the performance of certain sexed and cultural roles leads to
“devaluation”. However, “devaluation” in this sense, I argue is
misrepresented, for Wolfensberger does not discuss the way
particular attributes or forms of embodiment are related to roles. In any
case, in order to have “valued cultural roles,” Gillian Dalley
points out that “there must be a fundamental re-evaluation of those categories of persons qua
would take this analysis a step further and suggest that we need to explode the
whole concept of “disability” and interrogate the constitution of the
it must stated that it is the values in “society” which serve the hegemonic
interests of “benchmark” men, that also deny people with “disabilities”
“the opportunity to develop in the way which is best [sic] for them”
(Bayley 1991: 88)
looking closely at Wolfensberger’s theorising it is evident that there is an
irreconcilable tension and incompatibility between the desire to value humans qua
humans and “working to develop socially valued roles for them”
(Bayley 1991: 89)
is clear on this point, when he says that to “value the person regardless of
the person’s identity and characteristics
… is almost totally ineffective in bringing about the desired goal [of
quoted in Bayley 1991: 89)
raises yet again the shortcomings of a Functionalist based role theory.
The “validity” of “SRV” is highly dependent on an individual who is deemed
“different” and perceived as “deviant”, taking on the ascribed
“devalued” role and then incorporating that role into their subjectivity
(Rapley and Baldwin 1995)
idea appears remarkably similar to Althusser’s much contested notion of
interpellation. It is the power of
the “expert” and the “severely able-bodied” individual who, according to
initiate[s] the call or address by which a subject becomes socially constructed.
[Interpellation can] compel fear at the same time that it offers recognition at
an expense. In the reprimand the
subject not only receives recognition, but attains as well a certain order of
social existence …
(Butler 1993: 121)
is difficult to assess the relationship between the characterisation of an
individual and the “roles” they perform
(Rapley and Baldwin 1995:
of self-production however are multiple and complex; the individual is in a
constant state of negotiating competing subjectivities that may be imposed or
of “SRV” argue that the theory
presents an assimilationist and mono-culturalist perspective of social ordering
(Campbell 1984: 96;
Branson and Miller 1992: 17; Bleasdale 1994a: 21)
has an insidious quality about it, for such a process involves an
into the rosters of relative privilege, [and] requires that members of formerly
excluded groups adopt professional postures and suppress the expressiveness of
their bodies. Thus emerges for all
who have not lost the impulses of life and expression of a new kind of
distinction between public and private, in bodily behavior.
(Young 1990: 140)
“SRV” may have the opposite
effect of integration/assimilation, that is, it may produce the “exclusion of
people with “disabilities” from the political process”
(Bleasdale 1994a: 21)
unless we/they can be subsumed into a particular
human self - the sovereign autonomous individual figured in liberal rights
“independence” imperative is not only unattainable for many people with
“severe disabilities”, it is also a cruel fabrication which simultaneously
holds out the “promise land” whilst continuing to inscribe “disablised
bodies” as “Other”
(Campbell 1984: 96)
. In summation Branson and Miller remark:
the arbitrary disciplinary process of normalisation [“SRV”] has robbed us all of our difference, our society of its
sensitivity to diversity and thus of true
tolerance, and our culture of its potential richness, all to serve ultimately
the interests of a privileged minority.
(Branson and Miller 1992:
absence of any structural or socio-economic analysis of disablement and power in
“SRV” is well documented elsewhere
(Burton 1983; Chappell
1992; Gleeson 1995; Oliver 1995; Bleasdale 1996; Brown and Walmsley 1997)
. It is clear that “SRV”
does not “come up with the goods” to explain why in spite of significant
progress in the “tolerance” of “disability”, poverty and marked
“SRV” advocates an explicit strategy of separation from
other people with “disabilities”. As
Szivos puts it :
“official” view, from the normalisation [“SRV”]
perspective, is that integration with non-disabled people is a more important
goal than integration with disabled people [sic].
(Szivos 1992: 123)
strategy of dispersal of people with
“disabilities” is predicated on the belief that we will not “stand out”,
and our value and self-esteem will increase
(Szivos 1992: 121)
Unfortunately, the consequences of dispersal are likely to produce
Such a policy mitigates against people with “disabilities” developing
a sense of “meaningful association” and solidarity drawing upon shared
experiences and peer support
(Brown and Smith 1992a:
167; Brown and Walmsley 1997: 232)
to develop a resistive stance. The question of whether it is possible or indeed desirable
for people with “disabilities” to adopt a kind of oppositional sovereignty,
similar to movements of people of colour, needs further consideration.
years of “SRV” within Australian
disability services, there is a strong argument to be made that, in spite of the
process of deinstitutionalisation, the net of social control has widened.
Centralised institutional surveillance has been replaced by a “carceral
archipelago” of “community-based” services
(Cohen 1985: 42)
, which appear “open and small - sized”, yet
could be “restrictive and regimented internally”
(Cohen 1985: 291)
argues that it is no coincidence that normalisation was embraced at a time when
a philosophical rationalisation was needed to buffer up the policy of economic
monetarism [Oliver, 1995 #83: 14; see also /Graycar, 1986 #6].
Much has changed for the “lot” of people with “disabilities”
since the introduction of the Commonwealth Disability
Services Act 1986. However the “cosmology” remains essentially
(Branson and Miller 1992:
despite our lip service to consumer choice and the involvement of families in
the planning processes, [we] continue to suffer from the ‘cult of
professionalism’ where the trained professional, be he/she a physician,
psychologist, social worker, therapist or teacher, knows what is “best” for
the disabled person …
(Parmenter 1991: 3)
it has been argued that “SRV”
needs to be exposed as a new disciplinary practice, which provides guidelines
about how people with “disabilities” should understand, regulate and
experience their bodies
(Lupton 1997: 99)
these practices, the docility of the “disablised” body is produced by the
power of the “experts’ gaze”. We are taught to manage and understand our
own subjectivities, through “classifying and measuring the psyche, in
predicting its vicissitudes, in diagnosing the cause of its troubles and
(Rose 1991: 3)
instead of investigating the hegemony of “experts”, has enabled the adaptation of “experts” to “community-based” and
Committee of Educational Services for the Disabled 1984: 7; Chappell 1992: 40)
spectre of “institutionalisation”
has been transmogrified into a “softer” type of confinement - buildings
being replaced by the extended control net of the “helping profession”.
the end of the day nothing much has changed; the local knowledges of people with
“disabilities” have been subjugated through nullification.
The question needs to be asked - whose interests are being served by “SRV”?
It would seem that the greater proportion of “SRV”’s
supporters are professionals employed in the “disability industry”.
Academics, at least in the United Kingdom, actively promoted “SRV”
(Chappell 1992: 37)
the Australian context, key players in disability policy formation are zealous
advocates of “SRV”. They have the
power to shape and construct “disability”
discourse as well as expand their teaching repertoire by opening up new areas of
inquiry. The hegemony of “SRV” is
no more apparent than in its consummation in key Federal and State legislation.
Meanwhile, because “SRV” “connects with their [those adopting a severely ableist
mentality] common sense”
(Oliver 1995: 17)
, the “objects” of “SRV”
namely, people with a “disability”, are framed out of the debate.
the schema developed by Wood
concerning ways to think about the law, I have
produced, somewhat tentatively, a mapping of the construction of the
“disablised” body in Australia. [Appendix 1 available from the author].
is important to acknowledge the links between “higher order” philosophies,
the construction of “disablised” subjectivities in law and the premises
underpinning social policy. It is beyond the purview of this work to examine in
any depth such linkages and constructions, I am however interested in sketching
(albeit briefly) the incursions of “SRV”
into the body politic, in particular recent Federal anti-discrimination law.
in the context of gay and lesbian law reform, Wayne Morgan has berated those
activists who campaign for human rights protections within the framework of
anti-discrimination law. These
“assimilationists” “cling to rights of privacy and equality, magnanimously
granted by the State, and they argue that legal strategies should be directed to
achieving those rights”
(Morgan 1996: 119)
. The power of legal discourse lies in its ability
to “trade in symbols” and generate categories of legal persons and
legitimate “knowledge”/competencies. The very
rendering of “disability” within a legal framework marks out the boundaries
of permissible inquiry into the reckoning of “disablised” subjectivities;
concealing the discursive formations that entrench ableist normativity, not just
within law but broader in citizenship discourse. So how useful then, is law as a
mechanism for securing progressive social change?[xix]
Or is the law an instrument that entrenches ableist normatively in the
form of “SRV”?
Can, indeed the law be “escaped”?
For as Margaret Thornton reminds us the
can be imagined as a transparency that is placed over prevailing dominant
interests so that it absorbs and reflects those interests.
The movement at the edges of the transparency provides some scope for
change in the configuration of dominant interests, but not very much.
(Thornton 1997b: 3)
ambivalence is reflected in an article by Melinda Jones and Leanne Marks who
first argue that the Commonwealth Disability
Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA), still reinforces a biomedical definition of
“disability”. Such an
teach the wrong lesson about disability to the wider community by failing to
recognise that disability and outsider status are not inherent attributes of
impairment but are social constructions”.
(Jones and Basser Marks
concluding that the Act is of “limited utility”, Jones and Marks then
proceed to outline critical theorist’s concerns about the “law”:
“the idea of “normalcy” and the concept of “ability” is
achieved through the silencing of others, and in what is left unsaid as in what
is stated” (83). Just at the
moment when an interrogation of “disability” seems possible Jones and Marks
go on to dismiss this opportunity, and recuperate the law by arguing that
individuals who adopt this view “expect too much [and are ] … naive” (83).
Moving from a stance of “limited utility” on p.65, they conclude
DDA has a role to play in the discursive formation of new structures of
behaviour, including the regulation of
subjective integrity, attitudinal shifts and cultures.
(Jones and Basser Marks
1998: 82 ~ emphasis added)
is this possible when the very rendering
of “disability” within a legal framework “limits the permissible inquiry
into the nature of the construct; [concealing
the discursive formations] … that have helped to create - and then re-create -
(Hayman 1960: 1248)
DDA was in many ways a response to the shortcomings of the Disability Services Act 1986
that is chiefly focused on the regulation of service delivery arrangements and
funding to the “disability industry”. New
legislation was also a response to campaigns for civil rights protections by
people with “disabilities”. The
Australian Labour Party’s policy machine, influenced significantly by “SRV”,
enacted the Disability Services Act 1986
(DSA). The legislation emphasised de-institutionalisation by enshrining “SRV”
principles into its Objects (s.3) and the Act’s Principles & Objectives.[xx]
At the same time the government met its social justice objectives and reduced
the mounting budgetary deficit
(Graycar, Dorsch et al.
1986; Parliamentary Library Service 1996)
were “re-profiled”, “down-sized”, funded and occasionally de-funded
according to whether they met a prescribed services outcome guidelines”,[xxi]
based on material contained in PASSING training.
at a State level the Victorian government, with a policy framework based on “SRV”
enacted the Intellectually
Disabled Person’s Services Act 1986 (IDPS), enshrining the ideology of “SRV”
in s. 5 - Statement of
Principles. A lone dissenting voice
within the Victorian policy apparatus, was the Ministerial Review Committee in
Educational Services for the Disabled [sic], who in its report to the Minister
for Education specifically rejected “SRV”.
Their reasoning: the philosophy gave power to professionals and the
committee recommended instead an approach to “disability” akin to the social
Committee of Educational Services for the Disabled 1984: 6 - 12)
the power of legal liberalism still reigns strong. The former Federal Disability
Discrimination Commissioner, the late Elizabeth Hastings
suggested that “society” still places faith in
the law to deliver change, arguing that “the law has gone a long way towards
recognising the real community which includes people with a disability rather
than just the imaginary community”. The DDA, she goes onto conclude
“recognis[es] the real composition of the real community”. Does it really? It is debateable whether popular understandings of
citizenship can readily embrace people who are designated as corporeally Other.
Meekosha for instance, cites the exclusionary clauses in the Federal Migration
Act 1958 wherein entry can be
denied to persons with “disabilities” because they may be a significant
drain on the public purse:
meaning of ‘significant’ is contentious, leaving assessment of the person
and their capacities open to subjective interpretation.
Most community resources are in short supply … making exclusion a fait accompli in
(Meekosha and Dowse 1997:
the nexus between “disability” and bio-medical discourse such as “SRV”
is broken, the law will continue to reflect and legitimate the dominance of
ableist normativity. Our task then is to continue to interrogate the “law”
by “mapping the subversive voice, by telling the story of law from our points
(Morgan 1996: 136)
this paper I have attempted to loosen the grip of “SRV” within the dominant
discourse on “disability” within the Australian context by providing an
alternative reading of SRV. The
task of those of us with “disabilities” is to speak
otherwise, in order to rescue “disablised” bodies from the vertiginous
dread of the tragic. This project of writing/speaking in
oppositional/transgressive ways about knowing “disability” by necessity
engages courage, reflexivity and a reassessment of theoretical approaches to
disablement, for the very teleological future
of “disability” is at stake.
* This article is a revised chapter from my Bachelor of Legal Studies (Hons) thesis, School of Law & Legal Studies, La Trobe University 1998. I would like thank and acknowledge Gail Pritchard, Dr Rosemary Wearing, Denise Alexander and Dr Andrea Rhodes- Little for their comments on this paper.
[i] This term would be somewhat unfamiliar to many readers. Following Elizabeth Grosz (1994: 142) , I argue that the body can be seen as an inscriptive surface, shaped and formed by its history “ and specificity of … existence”. The use of this term I believe is important, for as a signifier, the use of ‘disablised body’, has the capacity to bring a different ontology of ‘disability’ into existence. Finding suitable language to express such an ontology has its problems. I am mindful that I risk reinforcing the very binarism I seek to subvert. My figuring of the body is based on a materiality that rejects Cartesian dualism and therefore I make no particular differentiation between flesh, mind or ‘giest’ (spirit).
[ii] For the purposes of clarity and to minimise confusion between Wolfensberger’s and Nirje’s concept of “normalization”, the term Social Role Valorization Theory (“SRV”) will be used to denote the “theory” and practice of the Wolfensbergerian school. Normalization emerged from the experiences of the intellectual disability field in Scandinavian countries.
[iii] This process has at times been coercive with many Commonwealth funded services being threatened with de-funding should they not conform with the Principles & Objectives of the Disability Services Act 1986 (Cth), based on “SRV”.
[iv] It is my understanding that the new “SRV” Theory workshop now has 10 themes. As of November 1997, the Australian “SRV” Group is yet to critically evaluate the additional 10 theme course.
[v] The separation is increased when the concept of “deviancy image juxtaposition” is engaged. According to “SRV”, in situations where marginalised (read: negatively valued) people, things and symbols are likely to be transferred onto “devalued” entities or symbols they should be avoided. Negative image transfer is reduced through association with valued social images.
[vi] My reading of the PASSING Manual’s heterosexed narrative is supported, somewhat ironically by Wolfensberger’s more recent work. In that work, Wolfensberger argues that civilisation is collapsing. It’s “glue”, in an advanced collapsed state include: “traditional family and home life, competent reproduction and child rearing. … Many traditional legal and cultural norms regarding human life, sexuality, morality …” (1994: 398) .
[viii] In 1979 he published an article on a theology of “disability” (Wolfensberger 1979) . The following year, after claiming that his formulation of normalization squares with the central tenants of Christian theology, he refers to another work Judeo-Christian Perspectives on Human Services (1980:89) .
[ix] Such a phrase has a distinctly theological “ring” about it. On the 11th April 1963, His Holiness, Pope John XXIII, in Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), called upon Roman Catholics and Christians in general, to discern “… the ‘distinctive characteristics’ of our age, a concept and approach which in Vatican II became discerning “the sign of the times”… ” (Gremillion 1976: 12) .
[x] Indeed Bleasdale (1996:8) suggests that Wolfensberger has an “apocalyptic vision for the world”.
[xi] An extensive nine-point definition can be found in Wolfensberger (1994:395-396) .
[xii] Workshop title: “Crafting a Coherent Moral Stance on the Sanctity of All Human Life, especially in the Light of Contemporary Society’s Legitimization & Practice of All Sorts of ‘Deathmaking’ of Unwanted & Devaluated People.”
[xiii] Dispensationalism or premillenialism, is a particular strand of Christian evangelical fundamentalism which chiefly focuses of the eschatological aspects of Christianity, in particular the “second coming” of Christ at the end of a millennium. According to Mc Grath (1994:472) , this movement has developed a strong influence with Christian subcultures in the United States of America.
[xiv] Earlier critiques were undertaken at great personal & professional risk, so whilst there was some critical “SRV” “talk”, few of these ruminations were put down on paper. For examples of early work see (Campbell 1984; Ministerial Review Committee of Educational Services for the Disabled 1984; Perrin and Nirje 1985; Graycar, Dorsch et al. 1986; Meekosha 1986) .
[xv] The literature used has been collected over a ten year period from sources not readily accessible to people in the “disability” field in Australia. The best collection on “SRV” Normalisation: A Reader for the Nineties (Brown and Smith 1992b) contains a mix of essays favourable and critical of “SRV” from a British perspective. This text had to be ordered in from the UK.
[xvi] “SRV” masquerades as a “new behaviourism” where “the same groups of experts are doing much of the same business as usual. The basic rituals incorporated in the move to the mind … are still being enacted. (Cohen 1985: 152)
[xvii] This issue is explored further in Campbell (1999)
[xviii] My starting point is the Commonwealth Disability Services Act 1986.
[xix] A good overview of contestations over the meaning of equality in law can be found in Marcia Rioux’s essay “Towards a Concept of Equality of Well-being: Overcoming the Social and Legal Construction of Inequality” (1994) . An excellent synopsis of the problematical nature of “disability” legislation in Australia can be found in Margaret Thornton’s article “Domesticating Disability Discrimination” (1997a) .
[xx] These were drawn up separately and appear in the Commonwealth Gazette, No. S118, Tuesday 9th June 1987.
[xxi] As a Departmental Officer of the Cth Department of Community Services, at the time, I was made very aware of the necessity to ideologically adhere to such prescriptions (Disability Service Program 1990) .
This is made quite explicit in the recent Victorian
Young, I. (1990) Justice and the Politics of Difference, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Copyright © 2000 by Fiona A Campbell. All rights reserved.