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Debunking the myth of the ‘radical profession’: analysing and overcoming our professional history to create new pathways and opportunities for social work

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The social work profession has often been portrayed as a progressive, critical and even radical movement for social justice and social change (Wagner, 1990; Reisch, 2013). This article analyses the basis of these claims and critiques the labelling of social work as radical, utilising a philosophy-of-science lens and critical theories and perspectives to interrogate the professionalisation of social work, the current knowledge base and practices, and the history of social work. The final analysis finds that social work is not a radical profession due to the influence of neoliberal values and social forces that promote the status quo. Implications point to a need to move beyond the myth of the radical profession and towards realistic ways that social work could reposition itself as a progressive profession.
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Keywords: critical theory; philosophy of science; radical profession; social work critique

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 2019

This article was made available online on October 29, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Debunking the myth of the ‘radical profession’: analysing and overcoming our professional history to create new pathways and opportunities for social work".

More about this publication?
  • 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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