Beyond homo economicus: Recognition, self-realization and social work

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This paper builds on Ferguson's important contribution to the debate on personalization in social work that appeared in the British Journal of Social Work in 2007. Whereas Ferguson approached the topic through the lens of political philosophy, the account below draws on critical social theory to examine not only the nature of personalization, but also its supportive pillar of individualization. In particular, Axel Honneth's critique of individualization in modern society is presented before setting out his ideas on the need for self-realization through inter-subjective recognition. The implications of Honneth's position are then considered in terms of four interrelated dimensions of social work practice, namely: (i) social work as symbolic interaction; (ii) social work as care; (iii) social work as respect; and (iv) social work as validation. It is argued that this constellation of practices poses a direct and necessary challenge to a social work of personalization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-857
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
Early online date26 Sep 2008
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


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