Sociological social workers: a history of the present?

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I argue that there is a submerged cluster of people who, at one or other stage of their careers, took positions in relation to social problems, social work practice, modes of understanding, and research practice that reflected and anticipated – knowingly or not – something we might call a Chicago-enriched sociological social work. They are Harriett Bartlett, Stuart Queen, Ada Sheffield, Erle Fisk Young and Pauline Young. Several of the themes that emerge from a review of their work are today, as then, as much sociology as social work. In closing, I consider three questions. How can we generally explain the presence of this distinctive strand of thinking and practice? Why did it drift into subterranean obscurity? Why should it matter to us? I communicate my sense that the work of these people was premised on a fruitful but never fully realised relationship between ‘sociology’ and ‘social work’. Conjunctions between the largely forgotten heritage of Chicago social work and sociology would allow a less ‘pre-tuned’ discussion of how the respective fields are constituted, and how practitioners of either might pursue their profession.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-24
Number of pages18
JournalNordic Social Work Research
Issue numberSupplement 1
Early online date6 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • social work
  • sociology

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