Towards a European Model of Social Work
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Despite being more intensely involved in European cooperation and exchange activities, social work in Europe still presents a picture of disunity. The present paper outlines the simultaneous processes of standardisation and diversification that have characterised this profession from the beginning. This has produced, for example, the duality of social work and social pedagogy, which has to be understood in the context of the diversity of cultural and social policy across European nation states. Social work's professional development has oscillated periodically between engagement with this diversity and withdrawal to scientific positions of detachment and universality. Rather than rating this as an indicator of the profession's weakness, the paper seeks to explore the positive and paradigmatic meaning of this characteristic, especially in light of the current challenges of economic globalisation and the social politics of neoliberalism. Although there is a discernible tendency of the social professions arranging themselves with organisational and methodological changes demanded by neoliberalism, such as managerialism and methods of client activation, there is also a strong countermovement that recognises the complexity of social and political relationships in societies no longer inspired by the promises of modernity. Facing up to historical contingency and cultural relativity emerges as a paradigmatic stance of a critical form of professionalism to be forged in transnational encounters and as a core reference point for an emergent model of "European social work" that could become of conceptual and methodological significance beyond the specific European context.