Journal Article

Viewing Spirituality in Social Work through the Lens of Contemporary Social Theory

Mel Gray

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 38, issue 1, pages 175-196
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online July 2006 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Viewing Spirituality in Social Work through the Lens of Contemporary Social Theory

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This paper locates the social work literature on spirituality within the broad theoretical and epistemological perspectives of late modernity. It focuses particularly on the rise of individualism and its culmination in the theory of reflexive modernization—life politics and subpolitics—and makes an appeal for an ‘ecospiritual social work’—one which would take social work away from individualism back to its communitarian roots. The rise of spirituality in social work is linked to individualism. Both result from the depersonalizing and alienating effects of modernity: the detraditionalization and secularization of society; the rise of science, rationality, the professions, and industrial and technological progress; and the decline in religion. Social work mirrors this process in that it has worked vigorously to shake off its religious, moralistic beginnings, and to embrace the secular trappings of professionalism in the process increasingly embracing highly individualistic values and scientific explanations of reality. The literature on spirituality in social work, in which the influence of New Age spirituality is strongly evident, tries to re-instantiate our search for quality and meaning. However, social work has yet to examine broader sociological theory and the way in which it can deepen our understanding of the rise of spirituality in social work.

Keywords: spirituality; social work; reflexive modernity; reflexivity; subpolitics

Journal Article.  10019 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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