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The art of being in between or the art of being between two stools, Johannes Kniffki, Dariuš Zifonun Johannes Kniffki, Dariuš Zifonun, Alice Salomon University,

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Presentation on theme: "The art of being in between or the art of being between two stools, Johannes Kniffki, Dariuš Zifonun Johannes Kniffki, Dariuš Zifonun, Alice Salomon University,"— Presentation transcript:

1 The art of being in between or the art of being between two stools, Johannes Kniffki, Dariuš Zifonun Johannes Kniffki, Dariuš Zifonun, Alice Salomon University, Berlin, International Conference, 15 th May 2014 With financial support from the European Union

2 WIT is a project funded under the EC Programme PROGRESS TABLE OF CONTENTS Hypothesis 1: Research: Social work is not a discipline, rather an interdisciplinary field of research Hypothesis 2: Time diagnosis: the society of social work Hypothesis 3: Profession: Social work mandates itself Hypothesis 4: Social work must be able to understand the social context of its work and to work for social change

3 WIT is a project funded under the EC Programme PROGRESS CONTRIBUTING TO THE DEBATE ON SOCIAL WORK We know that we find ourselves between all stools and will possibly set in motion a polemic which many may consider to be reactionary. However if the zeitgeist is pressing for change, we agree with Adorno, that it is truly progressive to reject this impulse. We would like to make some hypotheses regarding the question of whether social work is not more than that made possible by the visible and invisible framework of what is currently thought and taught at ASH. This is because it appears to us that there is a schism between the objectives of the doctrine and the dogmatism of discourse among social workers, on the one hand, and the reality of the research and teaching practice amongst university teachers, on the other hand. It seems that there is a strong normativity which, to a large extent, prevents thinking beyond these constraints. The aim of this contribution is to allow light into the apparently closed container of social work.

4 WIT is a project funded under the EC Programme PROGRESS Hypothesis 1: Research: Social work is not a discipline, rather an interdisciplinary field of research Academic disciplines have their foundations in their own methodologies upon which they construct, in their own way, their objects to be examined. Social work does not possess such a methodological foundation. Where it becomes an academic subject, where it wants to be more than day-to-day professional practice, it becomes an interdisciplinary field of research. We assume that such an understanding of the foundation of social work is, and has to be, a hybrid mix of diverse scientific knowledge.

5 WIT is a project funded under the EC Programme PROGRESS Hypothesis 1: Research: Social work is not a discipline, rather an interdisciplinary field of research Therefore, it follows that social work in teaching and research can call on as many varying and differing scientific disciplines as possible – psychology, pedagogy and social studies, theatre studies and jurisprudence, linguistics and literary studies are only the most obvious. A restriction to findings from merely social work principles does not reflect the real requirements which result from the dynamic of societal developments. Social work has no solution to many of the problems arising as consequences of the ‘process of globalization’. These, however, can be found in related sciences. Effective solutions may only be found in the hybridization of these findings in the furnace of social work.

6 WIT is a project funded under the EC Programme PROGRESS Hypothesis 2: Time diagnosis: the society of social work ‘Postmodernism’, which has succeeded modernism, no longer knows a localized individual or self. Instead it refers to relationships which exist, or do not exist, between subjects and contexts. Social work has to orient itself to the characteristics of the individual, but also increasingly, to the phenomenon of relationality.

7 WIT is a project funded under the EC Programme PROGRESS Hypothesis 2: Time diagnosis: the society of social work This means that, for example, social inequality, conflicts in society, racism and right-wing extremism and also trauma, depression, gambling addiction and burnout are social phenomena which cannot be ascribed to contexts of cause and effect, or are related to social events which cannot be influenced directly because they cannot be clearly identified politically or geographically. Under these conditions social work loses its point of reference as an action which is oriented toward the individual and local context. Instead, social work should orient itself to social relations in trans-local networks and social contexts.

8 WIT is a project funded under the EC Programme PROGRESS Hypothesis 3: Profession: Social work mandates itself. We reject the theory that social work has a double or even triple mandate. Social work as a hybrid profession eludes the ascription of mandates by third parties. It uses the rules and standards which arise in a certain given society (‘social context’) and possess validity for their own enabling function. Recognizing and mapping the social structure and working within it, is the art and purpose of those involved in social work. Social norms do not provide a foundation of legitimacy for social work. Instead the necessity to take action can only result from the knowledge gained from a given social situation. This does not mean that there are areas of social work which relate to a single, double or triple mandate. Those involved in social work must be aware, however, that they subjugate themselves to this mandate. Yet this is not the case when young people begin to study social work.

9 WIT is a project funded under the EC Programme PROGRESS Hypothesis 4: Profession: SOCIAL WORK MUST BE A RESEARCHING PROFESSION TO BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND THE SOCIAL CONTEXT OF ITS WORK AND TO WORK FOR SOCIAL CHANGE The increasing complexity of social relations arising from globalization, trans- nationalization and trans-culturalization makes it impossible to arrive at aprioristic statements regarding this socially complex reality and to take appropriate action. Social workers have to determine for themselves the reality in which they want to take action. This understanding of a local reference to action requires, however, a new awareness. We agree with George Bernhard Shaw who said that: “The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me.” In order to fulfil its decidedly enabling task, professional social work is forced to reflect upon itself – to carry out practice-related research. In order to take pleasure in this necessity, research-oriented degrees are necessary to provide future social workers with the required tools to carry out practice-related research. At the same time we need social work research that emancipates itself from the constraints of social work practice in order to enter into critical discourse.

10 WIT is a project funded under the EC Programme PROGRESS Thank you for your attention! 10 This training material is supported by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity - PROGRESS ( ). This programme is implemented by the European Commission. It was established to financially support the implementation of the objectives of the European Union in the employment, social affairs and equal opportunities area, and thereby contribute to the achievement of the Europe 2020 Strategy goals in these fields. The seven-year Programme targets all stakeholders who can help shape the development of appropriate and effective employment and social legislation and policies, across the EU-27, EFTA-EEA and EU candidate and pre-candidate countries. For more information see: The information contained in this publication doesn’t necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission. The sole responsibility of this training material content lies with the author. The Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information here contained.


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