Dissent against ‘Definition debates’ about Social Work
Keywords:social work, definition of social work, definitional debate, social work knowledge(s)
This commentary dissents against definition debates. I argue that ongoing discussion about what social work is needs to find a common ground of recognition. Arguments about the bifurcation, demise or “end of social work” are challenged. Starting with the position that social work operates on a necessarily contested and contradictory space, the case is made for a shared definition of social work as a “mediator in the social”. To stand up as a foundational definition for the diversity of social work worldwide, “mediation in the social” as described by Philp (1979) requires important updates to fit the complex “socials” of the 21st century. This necessitates a shift from the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge as an add-on to expansively identifying indigenous knowledge as a constant that underpins social work internationally. This definition needs to be founded on shared values and assumptions that capture the essence of social work such as citizenship, relational practices, human rights and social justice as expressed in diverse cultural contexts worldwide.
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