Transformative social work philosophy: Transcending modernism

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation onlypeer-review


This paper presents a transformative philosophy of social work as a foundation for a reimagined future for the profession, beyond the anthropocene. A rationale for post-conventional approaches to social work philosophy is articulated and a persuasive case is made for transformation of the discipline. Further, I argue that in order to thoroughly transform, social work must recognise and ultimately transcend the persistent ghosts and destructive legacies of its modernist lineage. The processes involved in achieving such a transformation are carefully mapped, using relational ethics as a compass. This mapping is also done with due respect for the wisdom of ancient and ongoing Indigenous knowledges especially in relation to the fluidity of existence, multispecies interdependency and the myth of individual autonomy.
Drawing mainly on feminist materialism and critical posthumanism, key aspects of transformed social work ontology, axiology, epistemology and methodology are conceptualised. Ontologically, social work is constructed with the capacity to embrace the interdependence and interconnectedness of all living and non-living entities, including the natural environment. The affirmative axiology and relational epistemological core of transformative social work are described. Creative transdisciplinary methodologies are also considered as complementary to and congruent with transformative social work philosophy. Some broader implications, possibilities and challenges for social work in the 21st century are raised for consideration and further development.
Themes 4 and 8 – Questions of progress/theories of change/the limits of liberalism
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2021
EventSocial Work Futures? What 'Social Work' does the world need now? CONFERENCE hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University - Online, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Jun 202128 Jun 2021


ConferenceSocial Work Futures? What 'Social Work' does the world need now? CONFERENCE hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University
Abbreviated titleContemporary social work
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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