Social work and the two cultures: the art and science of practice
art of social work
science of social work
social work history
L500 Social Work
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Abstract- - Summary Recent explorations of the nature of contemporary social work, tending to differentiate managerial and techno-rational practices from ‘real’ relationship-based interventions, are suggestive of there being an art and a science of social work, echoing Snow’s argument in his ‘Two Cultures’ lecture of 1959 about the especially English tendency to damaging divisions in academia. The concept, and the dangers Snow identified, are revisited and applied to social work in this theoretical article, with the science of practice being located in evidence-informed approaches and its art in relationship-based work. - Findings Social work has long incorporated approaches which draw on the strengths of the humanities and science ‘cultures’ respectively, and recognises what each has to offer; it may also be considered to some extent as belonging to a ‘Third Culture’, along with other applied fields. Common to any culture, however, as applied within the profession, must be its ethical base. - Applications As Snow noted, polarity between art and science can lead to common ground being lost which in social work may ultimately disadvantage service users. The professional value base provides the basis for a ‘social work culture’ as long as this is not itself divided by unconstructive schisms.
CitationCornish S (2016) 'Social work and the two cultures: the art and science of practice', Journal of Social Work 17 (5), pp.544-559.
JournalJournal of Social Work
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