Social work on the edge: not knowing, singularity and acceptance

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Social work has never been an easy task. Fraught with uncertainty, social workers are charged with making sense of the present and predicting the futures of people, places and events that represent perpetual possibility. As aspects of perception come into view, their appearance is shaped by structures and status states of individual and collective creation that afford security, yet limit and restrict. This conceptual paper explores the act of ‘knowing', considering it to be an active process, shaped by emotion and bound by contingent and expectant contexts that limit the possibilities of the future, through the collective self-imposition of ideas of knowing and of how the world works. It is suggested that emancipation from limited understandings and subjugated positions lies in an acceptance of that which cannot be known, together with an enhanced connection with who we are, enabled and supported by social work's core values. The paper's intent is to stimulate debate of an alternate future that enables and emboldens us to reach beyond organisational and self-imposed limitations that serve to reproduce disadvantage and social injustice. In doing so, it takes a reflective, psycho-social approach that offers a space for critical and transformative thought - the starting point for transformative, value-based, practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in European Journal of Social Work on 20/04/2018, available online:


  • Knowing
  • emotion
  • acceptance
  • values
  • critical
  • emancipation
  • risk


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