Theorizing social work in the domains of culture, politics and society

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter explores social work’s position within society, culture and politics by drawing on the metatheoretical work of the French social theorist Pierre Bourdieu. Societal institutions, by way of contrast, seek to define, enable and limit the nature of social work through legislative and social policy instruments. Social workers must avoid the risk of uncritically accepting official state classifications of meaning as orthodoxy, classifications often embedded in state policy and law. Social workers can assist clients to comprehend the effects of symbolic power and symbolic violence on their lives. It could be argued that metatheoretical sociology is too abstruse and far removed from the everyday practical realities faced by social workers and their clients. Social workers must challenge fatalistic ideas which assume that change is impossible because of structural barriers. It is important to remember that Bourdieu rejects the claim that his theory is overly deterministic and lacking in agency.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Social Work Theory
EditorsMalcolm Payne, Emma Reith-Hall
ISBN (Electronic)9781315211053
ISBN (Print)9780367783846
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2019


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