Social Change and Social Work addresses the relation between societal transformation and social work in time and space in Europe. The anthology poses questions such as what social work is in a rapidly changing world and what status it holds as a discipline and profession. It examines the changing role, possibilities and restraints of multilevel social work in different contexts in the light of the basic variables of sociological analysis, such as gender, generation, class and ethnicity. As we see, now more than ever it is important and topical to make visible the societal conditions, relations and contexts of social work. Several international analyses suggest that the machineries that govern Western societies have changed in ways that are increasingly conditioned by advanced economic liberalism and risk-oriented paradigms. At the root of these ideas are neutralizing and naturalizing self-referent discourses that blur, and often obscure, societal connections. Additionally, social work textbooks usually focus on only a few specific trends of transformation, such as internationalization and research methods. But what often remain untouched are the administrative and paradigmatic boundaries of social work. Due to these gaps, forming a clear overview of social work is becoming more problematic and complicated. The purpose of this anthology is to emphasize
that social work cannot be reduced to governing risks but it has to be connected to its changing societal functions.
The book consists of three parts, each of them creating different perspectives on our theme and problems. The first four chapters discuss how the social work mandate has changed throughout history. They examine the conditions of social work as they relate to social, political and economic tendencies. The second part consists of two chapters. These focus on social work paradigms and theoretical considerations, in other words, phenomenological social work and practice research. The third part includes four chapters. These address gender and generational topics. It should be noted that the anthology does not aim at geographical comprehensiveness. We are aware that currently there are numerous social work discussions occurring around the globe. The aim of this anthology is to highlight some of the perspectives currently being discussed in the European social work research community.
In Chapter 2, 'Is History Repeating Itself? Reinventing Social Work's Role in Ensuring Social Solidarity Under Conditions of Globalization', Walter Lorenz describes how the social work mandate has changed and lays out its economic, political and social boundary conditions in Europe after World War II. Lorenz suggests that the methodological discourse of social work has always depended on the wider societal strategies and their disappearance and success in time and place. The nation-state social work mandate based on collective solidarity and including specific methods has lately faced changes. The current methodological trends, highlighting 'evidence-based' and 'risk management' may lead to the politics of individualization and the privatization of social responsibility. Lorenz proposes that while the methodological discourse of social work is constantly narrowing, we need a historical perspective in order to set these 'evidence-based' methodological trends in the current social policies and contextual frames.
The third chapter, 'Social Work at Odds with Politics, Values and Science', by Edgar Marthinsen, seamlessly integrates the developments of the social work mandate Lorenz describes but concentrates on a specific context: Norway during the past three decades. Marthinsen describes the changes in the societal conditions, professional development and knowledge base of Norwegian social work. On the basis of his experiences, Marthinsen suggests that economic neoliberalism, the marketization of social services and new public management have severely challenged the core values of social work, leading further to the commodification of the social work clients, an increasing privatisation of social work services as well as a deprofessionalization of social work tasks.
The post-expansive discourse of advanced liberalism, described by Lorenz and Marthinsen, highlights the austerity and cutbacks of the public sector. One of the means used to dam up the public expenses is the moralizing discourse that positions social assistance recipients as 'fraudsters'. In the fourth chapter, 'From Welfare Fraud to Welfare as Fraud', Vesna Leskošek explores how the fraud debate has its origin in the US, the leading country of neoliberal financial policy
and political conservatism. She also looks at how the discourse has expanded to be an international phenomenon that now broadly permeates many current national debates. Connected with experiences from Slovenia, Leskošek suggests that the fraud debate refers both to the criminalization of poor people and the fact that people with poor economic status are forced to receive any kind of work and accept poor working conditions.
The first four chapters bring up such questions as whether and to what extent social work is a political agent, how the political aspect is related to the goals and means of social work as well as what are the possibilities for political influence in the social work agenda. In her review chapter, 'Social Work Education and Political Action', Maria Tapola-Haapala explores these questions from the perspective of social work education and methods. Tapola-Haapala concludes that the political aspects of social work should not be separated into distinct macro-level social policy questions but they should be included inherently in social work education and teaching. Social work education should pay more attention to ethical issues and the communication skills required at public forums and debates. However, professional social work and political aspects do not always fit straightforwardly together. Tapola-Haapala asks how one should react, for example, to views and attitudes that are clearly biased and promote the politics of a specific political party.
Advanced economic liberalism, austerity policies and new public management are inherently connected with new and strengthening rationalities and mentalities of governing, such as evidence-based practice and risk management. In the sixth chapter, 'Getting Back to the Things Themselves: Strengthening Phenomenology in Social Work', Stan Houston problematizes the current realist and even positivist-oriented approaches based on an instrumental reason while they exclude the question of human ontology and thus, narrow the ways of seeing social work clients and their lives. Houston suggests that the phenomenological approach in social work takes into account the relational and meaningful base of human reality and furthermore, offers an alternative where social work clients are viewed as the existential agents related to their own life worlds.
Furthermore, the transformative power of social work is not only connected to the external and political aspect, as described by Tapola-Haapala, but also, and above all, to a transferability of internal doctrines and ideas about social work as well as the promotion of comparability between national research settings. Local and global have become more and more intertwined and connected, forming an intersection known as glocal. It is not only an issue of producing comparative international knowledge on different phenomenon for policies or for new practices, but one of being able to challenge practices and establish context-sensitive knowledge production processes for producing socially robust knowledge. Consequently, in the seventh chapter, 'Socially Robust Knowledge Processes of Local and Global Interest in Social Work', Ilse Julkunen and Synnöve Karvinen-Niinikoski introduce their two research projects and settings where context-sensitive and multilevel but at the same time internationally comparable
knowledge is aimed at through a social work practice research approach. Through their examples, Julkunen and Karvinen-Niinikoski illustrate how we may produce socially robust, context-sensitive knowledge for increasing our understandings of the global–local dynamics in welfare and social work practices and for developing up-to-date welfare policies and practices within the complex dynamics of our era. Economic neoliberalism, public sector cutbacks, the privatization of social responsibility and social services as well as the moralizing debate on fraudsters can be seen as a part of a strengthening Western regime where the primary goals are connected with the activation of the citizens, social investment, employment and so-called workfare policies. At the rhetorical level, workfare policy is directed extensively at all the human groups in a homogenous way but at the practical level, the traditional elements of social stratification, such as age, gender and race, still dictate labour market positions, employment and working conditions. In her chapter '“She's a Migrant, She's Got Children and She's a Single Mother”: Welfare Programmes as Sites for the (Re)commodification of Mothers', Gisela Hauss uses ethnographic methods to describe two programmes for Swiss women, which aim at integrating them to working life and the contextual social work methods applied within multi-professional networks.
The gender-specific approach continues in the following chapter, 'Mother– Daughter Relationships in Families with Substance Abuse Treatment and Child Welfare Service Background', by Elina Virokannas. Conceptions of the family have lately undergone significant changes and mothers who use drugs have not existed until recent decades. Consequently, there are few empirical studies in the field of social work research in which the point of view of mothers with drug addiction problems is considered. In her empirical analysis, Virokannas interviewed 19 women who have abused illegal drugs and the primary aim is to consider the selfconceptions of the women interviewed as they talked about their own mothers at different points of their lives. The analysis highlights the challenges of mothers who have formerly had addiction issues to revalue and rearrange their motherhood identities to be able to take care of their children. Social work practices play an important role in the process and thus, the study brings up one perspective that could be useful to improve current social work practices.
The internal ethos, principles applied, typical forms of action as well as the appropriate methods of social work are formed in time and place. Together these multilevel, practically applicable and relatively consistent elements form broader governmental strategies. In their chapter 'Genealogy as a Tool for Analyzing Child Welfare Discourses and Practices at Moments of Transformation: A Methodological Discussion', Caroline McGregor and Susanna Hoikkala explore how a genealogical approach, based on Michel Foucault's ideas and writings, could be applied to and further developed while analyzing social work and, in particular, child welfare discourses, practices and policies. Basing their analysis on examples from Ireland and Finland, the authors show how the genealogical approach is fruitful and how it avoids the pitfalls of totalizing social work history approaches. They present how the approach effectively makes visible the conditions of social work practice in time and place.
Since the nineteenth century at the latest, voluntary social work, displaced later by professional doctrines, discourses and methods, has been one of the most traditional forms of action organizing child welfare. In the chapter 'The Practice of Using Support Persons in the Finnish Child Welfare Field: Towards a Relational Analysis', Johanna Moilanen, Johanna Kiili and Leena Alanen illustrate how a Bourdieusian relational approach and conceptual framework can be useful while investigating practices at intersections of two or more fields as well as particularly valuable for studies of social work in our present time of large-scale transformations that are linked to the increasing privatization and outsourcing of social services to the private sector. The authors utilize a set of documentary data and thematic interviews with 10 voluntary support persons in order to describe the ways of forming social relationships, positioning of the agents as well as the various forms of human capital required from the support persons in the Bourdieusian fields. They conclude their analysis by suggesting that the legitimate symbolic capital for practicing support person work consists of the resources that are gained in the spheres of civil society and family, such as being 'ordinary people doing ordinary things', in contrast to the administrational resources acquired in the field of professional social work.
In her afterword, Mirja Satka concludes, summarizes and responds to the debates and claims presented in the book's chapters. Satka agrees that social work might be challenged now more than ever before, but she points out that contemporary observers often exaggerate the depth and breadth of the current changes. In her epilogue, Satka lays out a clear view of the challenges social work faces in the future. She utilizes history as a resource for opening new possibilities and establishing future guidelines. Traditionally, modern social work has been connected with an idea of working together with lay people in order to increase their own self-understanding and transformative power in the present societal conditions. The heart of future guidelines for social work could include holistic views in the life of clients and state policies, ideas for promoting free social citizenship in democratic social relations and as well as close dialogue between client experience, practical knowledge and academic research in developing social work services. Finally, Satka reminds us that the employers of social workers are, after all, taxpayers and citizens, so a key task of welfare professionals could be initiating and participating in the joint transformative efforts of practice with stakeholders, promoting social cohesion and safeguarding their realization of social citizenship.