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Sleeping with a philosopher? Emmanuel Levinas and 'critical social work'

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It has been categorically asserted that Emmanuel Levinas's philosophy, dwelling on accepting responsibility for the 'Other', can be used to bolster the theorisation of 'critical social work'. Furthermore, a number of social work academics maintain that his complex contributions create a new framework for working across 'differences'. In contrast, this article will challenge these assertions, shedding light on an array of deeply problematic aspects of Levinas's philosophy and politics. These have so far been omitted in the way he has been presented to a social work readership. Particular attention will be paid to Levinas's self-proclaimed Euro-centrism and racist condescension toward those beyond Europe. The discussion will then turn to explore his ethnic nationalism which functions to conceptually misrecognise, disrespect and discursively delete Palestinians.
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Keywords: CRITICAL SOCIAL WORK; ETHNIC NATIONALISM; EURO-CENTRISM; PHILOSOPHY; POLITICS

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 August 2016

This article was made available online on 09 June 2016 as a Fast Track article with title: "Sleeping with a philosopher? Emmanuel Levinas and ‘critical social work’".

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  • An International Journal

    Critical and Radical Social Work is an exciting new journal that will promote debate and scholarship around a range of engaged social work themes. The journal publishes papers which seek to analyse and respond to issues, such as the impact of global neo-liberalism on social welfare; austerity and social work; social work and social movements; social work, inequality and oppression, and understanding and responding to global social problems (such as war, disasters and climate change).

    It welcomes contributions that consider and question themes relating to the definition of social work and social work professionalism, that look at ways in which organic and 'indigenous' practice can expand concepts of the social work project and that consider alternative and radical histories of social work activity. As a truly international journal it actively encourages contributions from academics, scholars and practitioners from across the global village.

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