The function of History in the Debate on the Social Professions: The case of Youth Work
MetadataShow full item record
Measured by the standards of the traditional professions like medicine or law, professionalisation in the social field is at the very least incomplete. In contrast to these benchmark professions, those in the social area are invariably struggling to secure their profession’s reputation in the eyes of the public; and they have no strict control over access to their profession, the curriculum content or designated fields of practice. Furthermore, they are experiencing the impact of a public crisis of confidence in professions in general, compounded by other, related challenges, such as greater emphasis on accountability, citizens’ rights and ‘consumer control’, and the increasing prevalence of neo-liberal politics in Europe. This paper suggests that it may be fortunate that the general crisis in the professions is occurring just at the point where youth work is beginning to enter seriously the era of professionalisation. It argues that youth work, given its distinctive history, is characterised by inherent tensions and ambiguities. Is it primarily about autonomy and authenticity or assimilation and adjustment; about the reproduction of identities or their transformation; an organised element of public social policy or the spontaneous product of social movements? The author’s view is that far from simply siding with one or the other, we should see the negotiation of such ambivalence as one of the core skills and competences of youth workers, and that such an approach is compatible with – and may draw inspiration from – the project of humanism.