Management ideologies in the Probation Service 7

Hobbes notion of truth is value free. Truth is a technical reality derived from accurate, specific definitions. Whilst this notion remains a forceful part of British intellectual and political life (e.g. Mrs Thatcher’s “there is no alternative”) and influential in the social sciences and the Probation Service, the problem of values and value judgments does get a great deal of attention. The discourse about values, however, appears to be conducted in terms that Hobbes would understand, and all too often is confined to the exchange of definitions. Values can be referred to as if they were intellectual entities, somehow apart from the people who hold them and from the behaviour they exhibit. If I may draw on my religious upbringing, I will return to theology to pursue the argument. In his confrontation with Pilate, the power of Jesus’ presence is conveyed by his refusal to engage in debate about ‘values’. He totally fails to argue his own case, and where he breaks his silence, he directs people to their own judgements of the evidence of his life. “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.” The Gospels themselves bear witness to the truth that people are not changed by persuasive arguments, but by the encounters with the man Jesus, and they also reflect the power of stories rather than of logical abstractions.

This leads us into the difficult area of how far the Probation Service is concerned with social change, or if it only exists to manage the community’s anxieties about disorder and change so as to maintain social stability. This is a debate familiar when cast in terms of the tendency of probation officers to turn offending behaviour into individual pathology. It is worth examining ‘Service values’, therefore not in terms of abstract debate, but as carrying emotional content within an interaction between the Probation Service and its environments.

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