Journal Article

Language and the Shaping of Social Work

Marilyn Gregory and Margaret Holloway

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 35, issue 1, pages 37-53
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bch161
Language and the Shaping of Social Work

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This article is concerned with the power of language to shape and confirm social work’s identity and to control its essential direction and task. Social work has perennially concerned itself with communication but paid surprisingly little attention to the more abstract concept of language. The authors trace the changing language used throughout social work’s UK history, placing this into socio-political and socio-economic context and analysing the discourses thus created and promoted. We identify three broad periods in the development of social work, characterized as the moral enterprise, the therapeutic enterprise and the managerial enterprise. We conclude by connecting this discussion with some key challenges, issues and dilemmas currently facing social work in the criminal justice and community care arenas, highlighting the language and discourse of punishment, risk management, consumerism and the market economy. The article concludes by arguing that social work must reclaim the language of its activity as it engages with the challenges to its identity.

Keywords: Language; social work; identity

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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