Traditionally, it is believed that social work
is a profession based upon an academic discipline and practice which supports
social and change development, social empowerment and cohesion and liberation
of people. The fundamental principles of social work are human rights, social
justice, respect for diversity and collective responsibility. This profession
is highly backed by theories of social sciences social work, humanities, and
indigenous knowledge. Social work in its various forms engages people to
increase well-being and their capacity to meet life’s challenges (McDermott,
2014). However, growing dissatisfaction to this conventional scope of social
work is presented in scholarly literature and in the practitioner’s reflection,
and it’s argued that with social evolution the role and scope of social work
should also be expended (Ferguson, Lavalette, 2013).


The 21st century is marketed by
profound social changes on a global scale, poverty, healthcare, social
injustice and various other issues have resurfaced again with extremely
threatening prospects. These rapid social changes raise questions regarding
wider role of the state, social policy and social work (Ferguson, 2009).

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In this context Iain Ferguson (2009) has argued
that “Another Social Work is Possible”.
This assertion is worthy of a profound discussion, since we cannot completely
discard the contribution historical thought in the integral analysis of the
antagonistic relations between capital and labour, complex paths in the
professional work of social work. Hence the aim of this essay is to discuss
Ferguson’s statement and evaluate to what extent Ferguson’s statement is
possible and desirable. How can and should social workers seek to shape the
nature and function of social work?


What is meant by ‘another social work’? – From
the growing technician / activist debate of social welfare models, Ferguson
(2009) focuses the one that conceives social welfare as a residual burden and
the institutional or developmental conception. The first emphasises the role of
social control. There is also a function of neutralising poverty. It is a
question of opposing resistance with cover programmes to minimum requirements
and eliminating distressing silt. It is a private or public charity organisation.
“In this sense, welfare alleviates the problems of the disadvantaged
classes by the benevolence of the middle and upper classes. And it tends to
become a derogatory term, since stigma is associated with the role of client in
those social agencies that provide services for ‘them’, ‘poor devils’,
‘useless’, not ‘us’, ‘Self-insurance’, ‘normal’ people.


Ferguson (2009) also points out that this is
the co-responsibility of the poor considered as “mere problems” that
the author wishes to emphasise, which means that it differs from the
institutional conception that Ferguson (2009) expose. “This conception
ignores the consequence of change,” he says. The poor are thus a category
of population that remains in time without opportunities for mobility and
promotion) of status. This conception also ignores the causes that lead to
poverty and marginalisation. He does not pretend to be angry with them.


In this context Ferguson (2009) articulates for
the need of a new social work, to compensate for their defects and the second,
more positive in this set, extends this field of action starting from the idea
that in a society all citizens may need the most varied services that help them
to maintain and maintain a desirable level of social welfare. So that, this
conception differs from the former in two technical aspects: acceptance of the
structural causes of many social problems and acceptance.


In this way, the social work services that are
promoted and provided to the population are not only aimed at achieving
acceptance of new interventions such as counselling and therapy, but to the
provision of the essential resources to maintain and improve the functioning of
society. It is a preventive concept, compared to the palliative of the
residual. Social services thus conceived are governed by the principle of
universality which transforms them into public services. Now, these two
antithetical ways of conceiving social welfare belong to an analytical
delimitation, since in practice, at least in contemporary UK (Ferguson, 2009).


The causes of this situation are multiple and
complex. But it is not our goal to address them in this work. However, it is
necessary to refer to a new situation that is aimed at the horizon of social
services and possibly is develop a policy perspective and new social work model
as activist for social change rather than implementing what has been theorised.


Ferguson (2009) argues that in the 21st century
social workers requires fundamental transformation for its effective
application in wider social context. Social work in the past has taken
significant advantages from the ideas and energy of various social movements in
this wider context such as women’s right movement, the movement for the rights
of disable people etc. the real critique however, in this early part of
twenty-first century, of traditional social work approach of neo-liberal
globalisation is emerging from the advocates of global justice and
anti-capitalist movement which exposes the magnitude and gravity of these
social problems. However, social work as a profession and social workers as
professional has not responded to this social call.


The fundamental arguments of Ferguson (2009)
are evident in everyday realities of social life in this global village.
Society proclaims and demands equity before the gaps created by the global
model. No one has been able to make economic growth compatible with social
justice. Efforts to specifically avoid poverty in have been unsuccessful and
human survival in the region has been progressively deteriorating. On the other
hand, the sustainable model that aims to reignite the development, the cultural
advance and the conservation of the natural wealth, recognises that the active
citizenship with the political power, must interconnect their efforts through
eco-educative proposals to achieve social equity (Hare, 2004).


Sustainable human development finds its maximum
expression in the present century, when social order and biodiversity are
threatened, sequestered in their essence, after the policies that apply the
powerful states to the countries submerged in poverty. The emerging paradigm
connected with systems theory places social work professionals in the
understanding of structural complexity, in which self-organised social subjects
are required to become learning actors, creative, with new social
relationships, integrated also to share knowledge and projects of life that
provide the vitality necessary for the implementation of a new social pact
(Beck, 2014).


Hence, the directionality of social work must
be framed in a critical revision of its professional project, a holistic
reading of the current situation, strengthening its commitment to achieve the
transformations pertinent to social equity in which the most important is to
recover the nature of the state in its relations with the market and society.  It is well known by all that reconceptualisation
was developed as a process driven by the desire to transform the vision and
mission of social work in a context of transcendental changes, such as the
expansion of capitalism, new orientations political power, in the interests of
social classes and in the economic model of dependence (Hare, 2004).


Ferguson (2009) believes that so for the
traditional sectors of the profession that saw functionalism, the clear horizon
to understand the plot accumulated by capitalism, to insert in this direction
of social transformation generated great controversy, because to resume this
initiative meant a manifestation of inexplicable ideologies. Contradictions
between the academy and the social welfare institutions at the time, which were
subject to the directions of the governments of the day, distanced from the
social demands of poor sectors of the population (Lea, 2015).


Why another social work is desirable? – In the
21st century there is resurge in the perennial violation of
international rights, cultural identity and territorial sovereignty. All this
stimulated by mechanistic principles that have also promoted the transformation
of social worker’s conceptions about what social work professionals feel and
want. In examining the fallacies that have been sold for centuries by
development models centred on economic growth and the expansion of markets in
global networks, social work professionals recognise that capitalist production
contributed to the generation of human behaviours that build social relations
based on the reproduction of wealth, using the resources of nature and
biotechnology for the transit to a postmodern society (Ferguson, Lavalette,


The case of transforming social work practice
following Ferguson’s thesis has its historical roots, in the mid-twentieth
century, philosophy and science eclipsed in their forms of inquiry, as did
environmentalist conceptions, which gave rise to behaviour modification
techniques. The media along with the technologies, invaded the daily life,
achieving a colonisation of the own being; this is the fusion of partial
identities because of social saturation (Rush, Keenan, 2014).


A unique achievement during this time is the
recognition by the world community of the harrowing threats to biodiversity
caused by war, oil spills, nuclear accidents, solid wastes, watershed
spreading, among others. It is known that economic growth is not a condition
for social development, but it depends on the possibilities of increasing
resources as determinants in the achievement of innovations in science,
technology and planetary life. Hence, free access to information and social
networks that favour equally free competition and dialogue with partners that
allows the search for answers to situations of social exclusion. Therefore,
social work should not continue to reproduce the social tensions and
epistemological conceptions in the emerging culture model (Beck, 2014).


In fact, it must promote a momentous change in
terms of its mission, vision, and social responsibility. Optical dialogue and
trans-disciplinary work should be given priority to foster an alternative and
innovative project to strengthen people’s democratic access to their civil,
social, information and technological rights. It will also be relevant to articulate
strategies that penetrate the unknown, the spiritual and the ecological, so
that human beings are recognised as actors and protagonists of their


This task also entails initiating the
construction of an enriching know-how, which enables the curiosity and creative
capacity of professionals to be considered as historical beings, who must
assume the leadership for sustainable development as a process for equitably
sharing the resources, face new social relations resulting from cultural diversity,
with social institutions, civil society groups, social networks and educational
communities (Lea, 2015).


Because of the above, social work must open
possibilities for a methodological transformation, which will expand the offer
of technical-professional alternatives focused on market competitiveness, on
the management of development projects at local and national level, to the of
international cooperation, favouring the entrepreneurial vision and social
responsibility as requirements to achieve the results in the arc of a
solidarity economy for life are challenges of the 21st century.


In addition to these considerations, it is
important to note that social movements are now rethinking enriching
perspectives of collective action, centred on the field of identity
construction, as a key to full autonomy in the expression of their demands.
Thus, a professional project in social work should foster an ethical-political
platform in which social actors and the state build a social pact that connects
intuition, ethics and the value of socio-cultural diversity with gender equity
(Sue et al., 2015).


In this context, trans-disciplinary
communication should be the guideline to enrich social work intervention, by
strengthening the generation of democratic citizenship. Let social work
professionals think of building own theory in this century, recreating their
philosophical platform in holistic ethics, strengthening investigative spirit
and self-organising to lead better life projects for the human species. For
now, let social work professionals take the exercise of seeking this new option
as a historic challenge and find the spaces to build consensus and put it into
action. There are other challenges that indicate the need to combine tensions
between identity, market forces and belonging to humans in all its diversity
(McDermott, 2014).


The contemporary social policy and practice
challenges are not only to be a mere instrument of social policy but, as
Ferguson (2009) says, social work must be an active element in the circularity
of the downward dynamics that occurs through decision-making, and in the ascendant,
that is carried out through the demands and emerging needs in the context. It
is in this context that both social workers and the population with which they
exercise their profession, where they develop and manifest the needs to which
social policy aims to respond.


What is the nature of humans? – Marx argued
that we are individuals only to the degree that history and society enable us
to be individuals because human consciousness is sublimed in the history and
society we live in. Mental life is socially embedded; there is no unsocialised
self. Marx argued, providing an entry point for reflexivity, that perceptions
about human nature are influenced by our own social position and by an
ideological understanding of social reality. Marx also provided a solution to
such misrepresentations that have influenced radical Social Work: Praxis allows
us to do something about societal dependencies, injustices, and intellectual

Following Marx, critical thinkers have suggested that human existence takes
place within a societal context, that society is not an external environment or
an external variable, but rather an active agent that constitutes the self even
if we are not determined by it. However, one of the main problems stems from
the question of how we should understand society and which categories Social
Workers should privilege. This problem is an important site for ontological
reflexivity because it determines which social justice goal “I” will focus on.
For instance, how can we describe contemporary Western society? We might
describe it as developed, industrialised, secular, democratic, liberal,
neo-liberal, multicultural, open, advanced; or as patriarchal, neo-colonial,
capitalist; or as consumerist, leisure-oriented, communicative, information-based,
technological, modern or postmodern; or as combinations thereof. Descriptions
can be based on the economy, political system, industry, technology, knowledge
production, and so on.


The Philosophical Social Work
– To practice effectively in today’s complex and changing
environment, social workers need to understand how contemporary cultural and
philosophical concepts related to the people they work with and the fields
they practice in. Exploring the ideas of philosophers, including
Nietzsche, Gadamer, Taylor, Adorno, MacIntyre, Zizek and Derrida, this text
demonstrates their relevance to social work practice and presents new
approaches and frameworks to understanding social change. This paper proposes a
philosophical social work attitude towards reflexivity that avoids
self-surveillance, individualisation, or a confessional attitude, but rather is
intended to inspire informed action in Social Work. This perspective follows
Parker (2015) who reminded us “to look at how the subjectivity of the
researcher affects and interconnects with that of the researched, and what
forms of agency are facilitated or blocked in the process”. Such a critical
attitude towards reflexivity provides the conditions for the possibility of reflexivity
to challenge the status quo. The paper attempts to provide a useful heuristic
when dividing reflexivity into ontological, epistemological, and ethical
dimensions, and when applying these dimensions, as interconnected as they are,
to reflect upon Social Work (theoretical, academic, practical or political). It
also proposes that reflexivity is a first-person psychological concept, meaning
that it should be applied to yourself, that is, to your own theories
and practices, before it is applied to the other. This entails an
understanding of the reasonable perspective of the other as legitimate as our
own view (even if these perspectives disagree).



reflexivity – Social Work produces, distributes, and consumes knowledge.
Epistemological reflexivity challenges our knowledge, our assumptions about
knowledge as well as our practices of knowledge. Academics have argued
that epistemological reflexivity needs to be applied at all stages of research,
including “the selection of problems, the formation of hypotheses, the design
of research (including the organisation of research communities), the
collection of data, the interpretation and sorting of data, decisions about
when to stop research, the way results of research are reported, and so on”. 

Differences between the researcher (this may include practitioners) and the
participant or client (the Other) in terms of gender, ethnicity, class, age,
experience, and so on come into play in the production and dissemination of
knowledge. These social labels may reflect different rationalities, values,
languages, and norms that can be traced to cultural or subcultural contexts.
The researcher, informed by his or her cultural assumptions, may prefer
research topics, methodologies, interpretations, interventions, and so on, that
neglect or even violate the participant’s unique subjectivity and living
conditions. The Social Worker may impose his or her own version of health,
empowerment, and resistance onto the other, a rationality that is shaped under
the influence of existing power relations. 

reflexivity – We have suggested that any kind of social or psychological
activity is inherently a moral project because it engages with persons,
communities, or cultures. Ontological and epistemological decisions have
ethical dimensions. The conducting of research has a moral dimension as having
the presentation of research and the practice of Social Work. Given
the huge amount of literature on ethics that indicates the complexity of the
debates, we will only present some examples that intend to represent ethical
dilemmas and issues that Social Workers might encounter or that they need to
reflect upon.



Conclusion – It concluded that Ferguson’s
thesis for the possibility of another social work is indeed possible. Both the
increasing social injustice in almost every sphere of social life in this
global world and growingly redundant social work practice warrants a
fundamental transformation in the objectives social work practices and role of
social worker in shaping and implementing social policies.  As members of society, practitioners also
interact with other subjects, with the social whole and with the structure.
Social workers are in the normalised part, majority in society, where the power
of objectification resides. Therefore, they have a vision about the problems
and the material manifestations of the object, the discomfort.


This vision, obtained as a member of the
society, is consubstantial to his person, to his citizenship, and of which they
hardly come off when they intervene as professionals. Putting it is necessary
another construction of the object that allows social work professionals to
establish distance from the social consideration of discomfort, in front of our
own personal vision and that allows social work professionals to enter fully
into the world of the other, i.e. try to understand what it means, what it
represents, how the situation of malaise in order to develop a professional
action that focuses on the autonomy, on the participation of the individual in
the solution of his problem. It is possible with the use of an instrumental
apparatus that emphasises the qualitative, the unique perspective that each
subject gives to each situation that lives, and with the knowledge and
management that helps to become aware of own considerations.


Smith (2012) summarised the current status quo
on the issue very well: “there is the re?exivity of academics in a particular
?eld, say social theory, interested in persuading colleagues to examine the
taken-for-granted concepts, values, and practices of the ?eld. The
question is what this reflexivity embellishes. I think that Maton (2014) makes
valid points when discussing the attitude that might emerge from reflexivity:
“it has now become a sin to not be reflexive. The term is used as a marker of
proclaimed distinction and originality, with position-takings effectively
claiming, ‘I am a reflexive actor producing reflexive accounts of reflexive
modernity, while you are unreflexively and inadequate, an outdated relic of a
bygone era'” (p. 54). 

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