Journal Article

But Is It Social Work? Some Reflections on Mistaken Identities

Richard Hugman

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 39, issue 6, pages 1138-1153
Published in print September 2009 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online February 2008 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
But Is It Social Work? Some Reflections on Mistaken Identities

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Throughout its history, social work has been marked by disputes about its identity, especially in the ‘global North’. The question of where boundaries, if any, should be drawn around the profession is one that apparently has not been resolved. In particular, should the focus of social work be on ‘micro’ or ‘macro’ issues and what problems are at stake in such debates? As professional social work continues to develop in many countries, these questions continue to be posed and to be contested. This paper reviews the core issues of such debates, noting that they are important because they show the inevitably contested nature of social work and arguing for a breadth of vision in discussions about this. It suggests that by considering a common thread but, at the same time, recognizing diversity, the profession will be able to maintain and further develop a coherent broad identity. In particular, it is suggested that countries of the ‘global North’, where modern social work first began to professionalize, can gain by considering development of different ‘authentic’ forms of social work in the ‘global South’.

Keywords: Social work; professionalization; internationalization; localization; micro/macro models

Journal Article.  7002 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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