Social work and the search for meaning under conditions of modernity
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Social work is a clear product of modernity although it builds on values and helping traditions of pre-modern times. Therefore, its practice reflects and needs to confront many of the ambiguities that characterize processes of solidarity and ‘helping’ under conditions of modernity. Both the progress of secularization and the widespread re-emergence of religious affiliations bear witness to this ambiguity and require differentiated responses that neither pay naïve homage to rationality nor advocate an authoritarian ‘return to traditional values’. It is proposed that a critical acknowledgement of the importance of dimensions of human finality, derived from, for instance, the theological thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, can provide a basis for a sensitive, value-oriented form of social work practice that acknowledges the fundamental openness and vulnerability of the human condition without condoning suffering fatalistically.