The identity of social work: an ontological perspective

Jones, James William (1978) The identity of social work: an ontological perspective. Doctoral thesis, University of Lancaster.

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The overall concern of the inquiry is that of how contemporary social work activity can be understood and described. It moves through three related stages.
The first stage constitutes a preparatory analytic and investigates why and how the question of the identity of social work is
presently problematic. Starting from the contemporary practice situation in the United Kingdom, this is established as being not merely diverse, but fragmented. Further analysis of the situation subsequently reveals it to have a decisive epistemological nature. The propaedeutic character of the results of the analysis is then utilised to provide the criteria which enable an assessment of the adequacy of various current holistic descriptions of practice to be made.
Clarification of the methodological issues involved in understanding the question then enables the inquiry to move to the
second stage. Here an alternative approach to the question 'what is social work?' is put forward. In order to surmount the epistemological problem, the question is radicalised into an ontological understanding of the issue. But since social work is essentially a human act, the ontology is also existential in kind, relating to specifically human being. The salient features of a fundamental philosophical anthropology are then set out.
The availability of a methodologically adequate approach permits a re-consideration of the question of the identity of social work as the third stage of the inquiry. On the basis of an hermeneutic of existential anthropology as the fundamentum in re of the activity, social work is found to be an essential paradox, the tensions of which constitute the structures of the activity and which sheds further light on the activity's fragmented condition. The hermeneutic is finally used to develop a critique with the potential capacity to surmount the crisis which the initial investigations laid bare.

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