Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

European Journal of Social Work

For a Special Issue on

Political and Transformative Approaches in Social Work

Abstract deadline
01 October 2024

Manuscript deadline
28 February 2025

Cover image - European Journal of Social Work

Special Issue Editor(s)

Assistant Professor Zulmir Bečević, PhD, Dep. of Social Work, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
[email protected]

Assistant Professor Anna Ryan Bengtsson, PhD, Dep. of Social Work, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
[email protected]

Professor Marcus Herz, PhD, Dep. of Social Work, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
[email protected]

Professor Walter Lorenz, PhD, Faculty of Education, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy, and Faculty of Humanities, Charle’s University, Czech Republic
[email protected]

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Political and Transformative Approaches in Social Work

The wide-reaching neoliberalization and technocratization of European welfare regimes have made it difficult for social workers to assert their role as negotiators between personal and broader structural and political social concerns. It is not sufficient to lament the implied de-politicisation of social work and to express further criticism of the social work profession for its apparent inability to envisage and address social problems in an explicitly political way. Instead, with this special issue, we want to point a way forward that not only explains the background to contemporary dilemmas faced by social workers, but also collects change-oriented perspectives for their transformative handling.

It is acknowledged that current approaches to understanding and addressing social issues in society and their presentation at personal level now frequently frame them as cases to be administered according to the cost-efficiency doctrines of new public management and the “activation” ideology inherent in welfare policies. This forces social workers to adopt modes of practice that emphasise “factuality” and procedural correctness instead of remaining sensitive to the full complexity of human suffering under adverse social conditions. The mandate to provide an ethics-based, anti-oppressive and relational form of social work grounded in social justice, as one of the profession’s core principles, risks to quickly become eroded.

In response to this apparent crisis of the profession and academic discipline, which since their origins have always understood their social mandate at least implicitly as profoundly political in nature, the last couple of years have witnessed an upsurge in critical approaches emphasizing the interrelatedness of human suffering with frameworks of politics and power. Calls have been made for a ‘new politics of social work’ (Gray & Webb 2013), a ‘renewal of critical social work’ (Morley & Ablett 2016), ‘political social work’ (Lane & Pritzker 2018), ‘dissenting social work’ (Garrett 2021), a ‘politics for social workers’ (Pimpare 2021), ‘revolutionary social work’ (Kamali 2022), and most recently ‘agonistic social work’ (Bečević & Herz 2023). We perceive in them a call for a radical democratic stance against the status quo of the prevailing neoliberal consensus and the ensuing systemic oppression. Given the contemporary political conjunctures facing European societies, the need for critical counterpoints and a more politicized stance towards social and political challenges has never been greater (Ferguson 2016).

In light of these considerations, this special issue aims to explore novel and innovative ways of bringing political and emancipatory dimensions to bear in contemporary social work theory, practice and education. The overall objective is to collate recent research on the intertwining and yet often polarized relationship between politics and social work in contemporary Europe, and to envision how social work can create a demonstrable space where principles of social justice and human rights are politically articulated, claimed and put into practice.

We invite papers that contribute to the ongoing vitalisation of the field’s political vocabulary and practice repertoire from a variety of national, transnational and organizational settings across contemporary Europe. We welcome contributions that explore the politics of social work from diverse theoretical and methodological perspectives, and with a specific focus on cases of transformative action aiming for social change. Papers demonstrating evidence and critical analysis of effective and transformative social work practice in the fields of the profession, research, and education, as well as facilitating discussions of resistance and effective negotiation when working with individuals and groups, are particularly encouraged. We invite papers that address topics such as:

 - the role of social work and social workers in taking position to politics on the local, regional, national and supranational level;

- the role of critical, anti-oppressive and emancipatory traditions of social work and their engagement with political and economic structures that produce inequalities and oppression;

- activist social work, social mobilisation and collective strategies to tackle contemporary social challenges inside as well as outside the formal political system;

- agonistic approaches to social work, that is, perspectives which explore the productive potential of dissensus, conflict and resistance;

- the creation of political space and reflection in the domains of social work education, in theory and practice;

- empirical examples, concrete strategies and theoretical concepts on how to think and conduct social work in a politically effective way to achieve change.

Submission Instructions

The guest editors invite you to submit an abstract of your proposed paper (not exceeding 300 words). This should be sent via email to:

Assistant Professor Zulmir Bečević, PhD, Dep. of Social Work, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, [email protected].

From the submitted abstracts the guest editors will select those on which they will invite full submission. The deadline for submission of abstracts is 1st of October 2024. Decisions on the commissioning of full papers will be made by 29th of October 2024. Authors invited to prepare their full paper must submit it by 28th of February 2025. All papers submitted will be subject to full anonymized peer review prior to decisions on publication. All papers finally accepted will be published in either the themed issue or a regular issue of EJSW.

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