Reading Bauman for Social Work

Mark Smith (Lead / Corresponding author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article draws on the social theories of Zygmunt Bauman to provide some analytical purchase on the state of contemporary social work. It outlines key themes in Bauman's writing and considers features of current social work practice against these. The starting point for Bauman's work is his explication of modernity and in particular the shift he identifies from what he calls ‘solid’ to ‘liquid’ modernity. The implications for social work within solid and liquid modern imaginaries are considered. Essentially, modernity, in its dominant guises, conceives of social work as a technical-rational endeavour whereas Bauman would argue that it is an irredeemably moral one. The moral dimension, however, is swept aside by the bureaucracy of solid modernity and by the neoliberal tenets of liquid modernity. This creates a growing dissonance between the original ethical impulse that brings people into social work and the job they are increasingly expected to do. Bauman argues that an ethical stance involves social workers ‘being for’ those they work with. It cannot come about through recourse to rules and codes but ultimately relies on workers taking personalised and situated moral positions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2-17
    Number of pages16
    JournalEthics and Social Welfare
    Issue number1
    Early online date7 Mar 2011
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2011


    • Bauman
    • Modernity
    • Postmodernity
    • Liquid Modernity
    • Social Work
    • bureaucracy
    • Social Distance
    • Neoliberalism
    • Codes of Practice


    Dive into the research topics of 'Reading Bauman for Social Work'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this