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Teresa Matus Dra. En Trabajo Social Universidad Federal de Rio de Janeiro Directora de Trabajo Social Universidad de Chile

A static innovation: The dimension of the new in Latin American Social Work


When one speaks of innovation, there is, through its own semantic expression, a certain confidence that it bears something new. Moreover, it is used as an image opposed to the old. Seeing it that way, it contains a hope of overcoming. However, by looking carefully at this notion ‘new vs. old’, it is possible to observe in it, a lack of movement of conceptual flow dynamics, which makes it possible to use it as a turning point to face the complexity of a Latin American social situation in full regressive impulse. Rather, the emergence and hegemonic use of the concept of social innovation on this continent has been used as a tool for neoliberal systems that associate it with competitiveness, product creation, linked with a business system that articulates science and business, in a deployment of social programs where the notion of entrepreneurs, that has become an infallible slogan for the illusory and individual overcoming of poverty. Chile is a clear example of this. One of its evidences is that innovation and its large buildings have been sponsored by the same big families of the country’s elite, those who think that redistribution and growth are variables in opposite paths. Governments like Dilma Rouseff, Cristina Fernandez and Michelle Bachelet in Latin America, when they propose redistributive reforms, stole the fire of the gods and forgot the growth and its macro-numbers. This imprudence placed us in years of crisis and darkness and only now, and with the return of right governments, ‘good times will come’.

Innovation – promise or price

Hence the premise of the text is to postulate that it requires a shift in the conception of innovation, to be able to observe in it, the impulses of old forms, and from classical theories such as Adorno’s negative dialectic and Benjamin’s images, the necessity to think in other constellations for a notion mobilizing social innovation: a) an innovation that brings to the present the unfulfilled expectations of the past, that in its memory treasures the old concept of social transformation; b) an innovation that conceives redistribution and ancestral struggles for recognition as a differentiated unit; c) an innovation that surpasses both the planning-execution-evaluation line and the prototype-packaging-transference line to open itself to the contradiction; d) an innovation due to the injustice of the cynical reason of the State and the greed of the market theodicy; and e) an innovation that preserves the spirit and ruins the new clothes of domination in the demands of a logic that transforms everything into projects.

Now, in order that the Latin American Social Work can participate in this transformation, it must remember its own dead and its forgetfulness. Not buying an explanatory principle of evidence, not settling in the rigidity of a structural criticism, not exposing it as if it were an obvious truth. Stop thinking as a systematization of practices, as a technological application, as incomplete mediation, as a care-giver or as a reunifier of families. Open to its own contemporary approaches, where anti-aggressive practices, devices for observing regimes of the gaze, struggles for the legitimacy of the diverse, gender approaches, rights, and participatory work, become possible conceptions of conjugation with another social innovation. Of that we have full hands to whom to refer: Chambon, Moffett, Parada, Quiroga, Jamur, Rozas, Karsz, Dominelli, Midgley, Healy, Netto, Iamamoto, Wang, Mota, Gonzalez Saibene and others, a lots of surnames that move in the long cosmopolitan seas of a social work which make the way to walk.

It is not a matter of denying the concept of innovation, but of innovating it. In a sort of criticized transvestite of trojan horses made of ‘Deep-Data’ that can be thrown towards the cities and can resonates the sentence of the great Gieco of solitude on ruin, of blood in the wheat, of freedom without gallop, of hopes, of same five hundred years; to transform the concept of innovation in the beginning of the end, in deadly allegories, in darkness with flowers, in new revolutions. And if that Social Work still doesn’t exist at all, it would have to be innovated; it would have to be invented. It should be remembered, since that innovation had, there is and there will be thousands who died and those who are with us, even if they aren’t yet born. From the Cordillera de los Andes to the Rio de la Plata, the Amazon basin, the Bay of Pigs, the lakes of Canada, the pillars of Hercules, the steppes of Central Asia, the African deserts, the ice of Finland. From pole to pole, in all lands. Universal, mobile, infinite, to those who will come.