Journal Article

Social Work from Inside and Between Complex Systems: Perspectives on Person-in-Environment for Today's Social Work

David Green and Fiona McDermott

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 8, pages 2414-2430
Published in print December 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online May 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcq056
Social Work from Inside and Between Complex Systems: Perspectives on Person-in-Environment for Today's Social Work

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The twenty-first century presents social work with significant challenges. To address today's complex problems, social work must inform itself of advances in the knowledge base of the natural and social sciences, particularly those that explain the changing construction of different systems and the way the world works. These explanatory theories offer relevant understanding of the social, economic and ecological contexts within which social workers practice. We discuss social work's search for coherence and the consequences that arise when a profession seeks to explain the way the world works through practice perspectives. We examine developments in the natural and social sciences that offer social work pathways to understanding the contemporary world. Complexity theory and evolutionary theory are essential to understanding the dynamics and causation of contemporary problems. Neuroscience, evolutionary theory and complexity theory provide social work with a new understanding of the relationship between people, their bodies and environments. Social workers' focus should be on working at the borders of evolving systems, effecting the ‘climates’ that can sustain those conditions (social, ecological, biological, economic, political) essential to maintaining human life and well-being.

Keywords: Social work theory; person-in-environment; new science; transdisciplinary practice

Journal Article.  6631 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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