Social work, precarity and the need for radical action: A European perspective
Authors: Parker, J.
Start date: 19 October 2017
Social work is a slippery and contested phenomenon having many forms and interpretations made by an equally wide range of social actors including those who use social work services, employer organisations, States and professional bodies, and social workers themselves. We all may have some notion of what the term social work means but we consistently fail to capture its many forms and may misinterpret its meaning for others. It is historically and contemporaneously a precarious construct that can be manipulated for many different ends, something that its chequered history also demonstrates, especially within Europe and through its colonial reproductions. This paper considers social work’s history in the context of contemporary socio-political landscapes of precarity in Europe. It posits the need, if social work is to achieve its human rights and social justice potential, to rekindle a politically radical form of social work that challenges established and official versions and sits uncomfortably with modern day social, political and educational perspectives. A way forward is promoted using a Durkheimian perspective that focuses on the piacular, an expiatory, redemptive and transformatory approach that accords well with social work’s radical values.