Understanding Social Work In The History If Ideas Research On Social Work Practice 2012 Soydan 468 80

Topics: Sociology, Social work, Social sciences Pages: 13 (11872 words) Published: March 18, 2015

Understanding Social Work in the History
of Ideas

Research on Social Work Practice
22(5) 468-480
ª The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/1049731512441262

Haluk Soydan1

Objectives: The purpose of this article is to present a theoretical frame of reference for the study and assessment of social work from the perspective of a history of ideas. Method: The study employed an analysis of primary and secondary historical sources. Results: Social work as a practice and research field is embedded in the genesis of modern social science as developed by the Scottish School of thinking, and organized practice for the betterment of life conditions of individuals, groups, and communities. Conclusion: The history of ideas of social work provides a theoretical frame of reference for identifying the historical roots of social work, defining its core as well as professional and research territory relative to other professions and disciplines, and placing evidence-based social work practice in a historical context. Keywords

social work as practice, social work as science, history of ideas, history of social work

Research disciplines emerge and develop in specific historical contexts. Historical events and ideas associated with research disciplines can be explored from a vantage point of the history of ideas. A historical approach may help those within a discipline get a productive idea of its theoretical and methodological roots, and of its historical role in society. It may also help generate legitimacy for the discipline within the community of sciences. Social work is no exception. While both normative and programmatic

definitions of social work have been developed over the years, no consensus has been reached as to the core, boundaries, objects of study, theories, and methodology of the scientific discipline. I perceive social work as a professional practice and a scientific discipline. This viewpoint is not without complications, but it is perhaps the only reasonable one. Like any other profession, social work needs to define its professional territory and earn recognition as a legitimate profession. Likewise, social work also needs to define its research territory as distinct from territories of other disciplines. We still lack a reasonably welldeveloped frame of reference for the study and assessment of ideas in the history of social work. What are the traditions of thought and action in which we can find the roots of social

work? Who are the originators of these traditions? In other
words, are there any so-called classics in which we can find the roots of social work as a discipline and as a practice? What historical right does social work have to lay claim to certain classics? Are there any criteria by which we can claim that

social work can be rooted in traditions of thought and action, as well as in the classics? In such a case, what are the traditions of thought and action in social work? What kind of delimitation problems are involved in relation to other disciplines?

The aim of this article is to present a theoretical frame of reference for the study and assessment of social work from the perspective of a history of ideas. Conceptually, the article draws heavily on my earlier book on the same topic (Soydan,

1993a, 1993b, 1999). However, I am revisiting my conceptual
framework in light of the recent development of evidencebased social work practice, which in my view stands as a bold expression of social work’s historical dedication to researchdriven professional practice. At times, a starting point for studies of this kind has been the assumption that human beings are programmed for mutual help

and entertain an innate propensity to provide help. When
choosing this approach, the main focus is on social work as
an informal exchange between human beings. The scientific
dimension lacks primary relevance...

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