Edited by Margaret Yelloly and Mary Henkel.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
ISBN 1 85302 237 3
The contributors to this volume formulate a fresh theoretical
base for social work education.
Together they call effectively for a more creative engagement
with the accelerating changes that have overtaken a staid
In this enterprise the authors have clustered together several
strands of contemporary thinking which are new to the field of
social work learning – post-modernism, philosophies of
interpretation (hermeneutics), the concept of the ‘reflective
practitioner’ – but which have refreshed other disciplines over the
past 15 years.
Post-modernists say that there are no longer any essentialist
theories, no ‘grand narratives’ such as Marxism or feminism, since
there are no universal truths on which to base them.
They stress the loss of certainty, the relativism of values, the
social construction of all knowledge in a period of rapid
Marilyn Pietroni, for example, combines post-modernism with an
examination of ‘basic assumption’ mentalities which constrict
professional flexibility. Her powerful message is that social work
has been stuck in its ways for too long and cannot adapt unless it
jettisons old thinking.
Mary Henkel relies on philosophies of text interpretation to
make a similar point.
Also using a post-modernist perspective, Ilan Katz draws out a
number of differences among writers on anti-racist practice.
He makes a distinction between those who look on black identity
as a fixed essence and those who see it as one important element
but not necessarily continuously predominant under all conditions.
His sympathies lie with the latter view.
One or two psychoanalytically oriented authors sit uncomfortably
with this new wave.
Having established that psychoanalysis is as equally valid as
any other science (since according to post-modernism all reality
and knowledge is socially constructed) the ‘old paradigm’ is back
with a vengeance.
At a time when the whole of Freud’s oeuvre is being re-evaluated
with less than flattering conclusions one might have expected a
more thoroughgoing critique of the psychodynamic approach than we
John Pierson is senior lecturer social w ork,
Staffordshire University, and co-editor of The Dictionary of Social