Desktop version

Home arrow Sociology arrow Social Change and Social Work


This chapter has argued that social work in the UK has been 'colonized' by a bureaucratic rationality that privileges procedures, systems, pro-formas and the 'electronic turn'. This inordinate response has undercut the 'lifeworld' of human subjects: their essential meanings, routines, rituals and use of everyday communication to problem solve. Hence, the 'system' and 'lifeworld' in social work need to be brought into a meaningful counterpoise but this can only be done by strengthening interventions that draw on the 'lifeworld'. In this chapter, I have argued that phenomenology provides an important lens for exploring the nature of the 'lifeworld'and how we might intervene meaningfully within it. Phenomenology recasts human life as something dynamic in nature, a verb-like happening (as opposed to a static noun-like entity), an unfolding experience. In this rubric the role and task of phenomenological social work is to facilitate new horizons of meaning so that, in Sartrean terms, people burst forth into their 'lifeworlds'. However, this is predicated on 'getting back to the things, themselves'.


Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage. Berger, Peter, and Thomas Luckmann. 1991. The Social Construction of Reality.

Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Binswanger, Ludwig. 1963. Being-in-the-World: Selected Papers of Ludwig Binswanger. London: Condor Books.

Boss, Medard. 1979. Existential Foundations of Medicine and Psychology.

Northvale: Jason Aronson.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

England, Hugh. 1986. Social Work as Art: Making Sense for Good Practice.

London: Allen and Unwin.

Foucault, Michel. 1975. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. London: Tavistock.

Frankl, Victor. 2004. Man's Search for Meaning. London: Rider. Garrett, Paul Michael. 2005. 'Social Work's Electronic Turn: Notes on the Deployment of Information and Communication Technologies in Social Work with Children and Families.' Critical Social Policy 25: 529–53.

Giles, James. 1993. 'The No-Self Theory: Hume, Buddhism and Personal Identity.'

Philosophy East and West 42: 175–200.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1984. The Theory of Communicative Action, Vol. 1. London: Heinemann.

Hayes, David and Stan Houston. 2007. 'Lifeworld, System and Family Group Conferences: Habermas's Contribution to Discourse in Child Protection.' British Journal of Social Work 37: 987–1006.

Hegel, Georg W.F. 1979. Phenomenology of the Spirit. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Heidegger, Martin. 1962. Being and Time. Oxford: Blackwell.

Houston, Stan. 2003. 'A Method from the Lifeworld: Person Centred Planning for Children in Care.' Children and Society 17: 57–70.

Houston, Stan and Christina Mullen-Jensen. 2012. 'Towards Depth and Width in Qualitative Social Work: Aligning Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis with the Theory of Social Domains.' Qualitative Social Work 4: 22–32.

Husserl, Edmund. 1962. Ideas. A General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology.

London: Collier Macmillan.

Kant, Immanuel. 1999. Critique of Pure Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McCormick, Marie L. 2011. 'The Lived Body: the Essential Dimension in Social Work Practice.' Qualitative Social Work 10: 66–85.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1962. The Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge.

Newman, David M. 2010. Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life.

London: Sage.

Parton, Nigel. 2008. 'Changes in the Form of Knowledge in Social Work: From the Social to the Informational.' British Journal of Social Work 38: 253–69.

Parton, Nigel and Patrick O'Byrne. 2000. Constructive Social Work: Towards a New Practice. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Pascal, Janice. 2010. 'Phenomenology as a Research Method for Social Work Contexts: Understanding the Lived Experience of Cancer Survival.' Currents: New Scholarship in the Human Service 9: 1–23.

Petrie, Pat. 2007. 'Foster Care: A Role for Social Pedagogy.' Adoption and Fostering 3: 73–80.

Ruch, Gillian, Danielle Turney, and Adrian Ward, eds. 2010. Relationship Based Social Work: Getting to the Heart of Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Schütz, Alfred. 1967. The Phenomenology of the Social World. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Sherman, Lawrence and Heather Strang. 2007. Restorative Justice: The Evidence.

London: The Smith Institute.

Webb, Stephen. 2006. Social Work in a Risk Society. London: Sage.

Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >