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Social Work, History and Science

The professional child protection and social services of today have a history of non-professional and local practices based on legislation, politics and morality that lacked the scientific claim that is now supported by formal education (Satka 1996; Hagen 2001; Webb 2007). Along with labour unions and other forms of social cooperation, several associations were developed, based on interests, for childcare, social policy and social work. These initiatives were also international and often carried out with Nordic cooperation. For example, the first Nordic Congress on Child Welfare took place in Denmark in 1921. Some of these associations were closely related to the struggle for civil rights, such as the settlement movement's relation to women's liberation, while others were more related to the idea of creating a just and rational social life. Moral and political engagement preceded professionalization but the knowledge base was soon questioned. After 1945, all Nordic countries received aid from the United Nations and the US to educate professionals within the field and the schools for social work training expanded throughout the Nordic countries. These schools have engaged in extensive cooperation, work that is supported through several organizations, such as the Nordic Council and the Association of Schools of Social Work (Nordic as well as global).

The Nordic countries experienced increasing professional activity based on formal education, but the establishment of social institutions related to the growth of the welfare state across the Nordic region is often regarded as more coherent than it perhaps is. Although the Nordic countries have similar service systems, there are great differences in the organizational and legal basis, and in spite of often adapting the same scientifi and practice innovations, they may be implemented to varying degrees and at different times. I agree with Webb (2007,

40) when he says that 'social work is formed within the social and cultural
complexities of modernity, in both its discursive and material vicissitudes'. Webb also points to the embeddedness of social work in a wider European cultural tradition, which has 'signifi symbolic meanings that impacted on social work, symbolizing modernity as science, civilization, development, pluralism and universal welfare'.

Professionalization needed a fi knowledge base, but this has been a troubled area in social work. It can be related to the embedded confl worldviews in the notion of the social as well as in understanding humans. Webb makes some interesting conclusions about why the concept of social was chosen to describe or name the form of assistance that was developed in relation to the rise of modernity. He relates this choice to the idea of secularization and thus leans toward Hannah Arendt and Jane Addams in their quest for respectable positions in providing aid. The etymological meaning of social refers to a comrade or friend (Latin socius), and surfaced again during the Enlightenment as a way to denote a friendship or friendly gathering, like in Royal society. As socialism, the term later came to refer to the fi

for human development, emancipation and just policy. Taylor (2007) points to the fact that the idea behind secularization was related to the modern project of replacing myth with science, and to the notion that life as it was should be the priority, not some religion's idea that life was a preparation for the eternal. In previous articles, I have related the development of social work to the development of the social sciences as well as that of medicine and psychology (Marthinsen 2003; Marthinsen and Julkunen 2012).

The concept of the sosionom (a title used in some of the Nordic countries) was constructed to represent the professionalization of social work. Schools began working to enhance their knowledge base and secure a trustworthy relation to the social and medical sciences. The irony in the title sosionom lies in the choice of nomos as its professional anchor. Nomos refers to the normative universe of the social and to what we fi to be true or to have truth claims in the social. The term is in contrast to the word logos used in sociology and psychology. Logos relates more closely to the idea embedded in the social sciences of revealing and explaining based on scientifi inquiry, and not in regard to the nomothetic as such, but even in opposition to it. While referring to the development in the UK, Rogowski (2010) points to the fact that the profi of social work has risen along with the sciences. The legitimation of and trust in science is receiving up to the mid-1970s. There is, of course, a question of to what extent social work has been related to science, but at the least the human sciences have been part of the curriculum. In order to qualify teachers for the social work schools and improve the scientifi base of the fi the rise of university postgraduate studies and PhDs in social work was launched in Norway, Sweden and Finland during the last quarter of twentieth century. The irony of this development is that it is the period when the critique of modernity and positivist science were at its strongest and, in fact, there was not much research done within social work in the beginning. The integration of teaching, research and practice was
not developed much until recently. For example, Nordic FORSA and its domestic associations to promote integration were established less than 20 years ago.1

Social work in Norway has struggled with the relation between academia and practice. The social workers union joined the Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) in 1971, and during the fi year of postgraduate social work studies in 1974, the programme only had eight students, a number that fell, ten years later, to two new students. These two examples illustrate a time where social work struggled with whom it should identify. Much of the research infl social work seems to have developed in other social science subjects and often looked at social work from outside, originating as psychology, sociology, political science and social policy.

In spite of their problematic start, postgraduate studies in Norway became more attractive in the late 1980s. Now they are a sustainable institution with numerous master's and PhD programmes throughout the country (Marthinsen 2001), as is the case in most Nordic countries. The unions who earlier had been in charge of much further education and knowledge production retreated to the role of defending workers' rights. In fact those who completed postgraduate studies mostly left the union as well as stepped away from practice. While Finland has chosen to change social work into a master's professional education, the other Nordic countries still seem ambivalent towards prolonging the education. The increasing focus of research on and with practice in social work in the Nordic countries may have several explanations. The establishment of master's programmes, PhD curricula and an increasing research and academic staff with a background in social work itself has developed a fi of research and inquiry.

The increase of academic and scientifi competence has propelled universitybased research (Mode 1) as well as knowledge production based within the organizations in welfare services (Mode 2) (Gibbons et al. 1994; Nowotny, Scott and Gibbons 2001; Rasmussen 2012). Today there are networks based on several fi of interest with Nordic as well as global reach in social work, perhaps most notably FORSA with its domestic institutions in all Nordic countries. FORSA has become one of the main forums for practice-based research since 1996, in an attempt to bridge the gap between academia and practice. The mentioned development responds to the quest for stronger research-based knowledge production in and for practices and is now being extended to Europe.2

1 FORSA is the Nordic association aimed at merging practice with research in Social Work. The first Nordic symposium was held in 1996.

2 European Social Work Research Association @ESWRA1.


 
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