Journal Article

Liquid Social Work: Welfare Interventions as Mobile Practices

Harry Ferguson

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 38, issue 3, pages 561-579
Published in print April 2008 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online December 2006 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcl367
Liquid Social Work: Welfare Interventions as Mobile Practices

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This paper re-examines the nature of social work from the perspective of movement and ‘mobilities’. It shows that social work is at all times ‘on the move’, yet theory and analyses of policy and practice largely depict it as static, solid and sedentarist. The paper draws on the ‘new mobilities paradigm’ (Sheller and Urry, 2006), through which a concern with flows and movements of people, objects, information, practices, speed and rhythm, with complexity, fluid images and liquid metaphors, is moving to the centre of social theory. An understanding of the ‘liquid’, mobile character of social work means producing accounts which are much closer to what its practices are, how and where they are performed and experienced by service users and professionals, and the opportunities and risks inherent to them. Three key domains of practice—the home visit, the car journey and the office/organization—are examined in terms of the movements that go on in them. Viewed through systemic and complexity theories, it is shown that social work interventions in late-modernity are best understood in terms of a flow of mobile practices between public and private worlds, organizations and the home, at the heart of which is the sensual body of the practitioner on the move.

Keywords: mobilities; movement; social work; cars; home visit; information technology and welfare organizations

Journal Article.  9369 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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