Research on Social Work Practice 22(5) 468-480 ยช The Author(s) 2012 Reprints and permission: DOI: 10.1177/1049731512441262

Understanding Social Work in the History of Ideas
Haluk Soydan1

Abstract Objectives: The purpose of this article is to present a theoretical frame of reference for the study and assessment of social work from the perspective of a history of ideas. Method: The study employed an analysis of primary and secondary historical sources. Results: Social work as a practice and research field is embedded in the genesis of modern social science as developed by the Scottish School of thinking, and organized practice for the betterment of life conditions of individuals, groups, and communities. Conclusion: The history of ideas of social work provides a theoretical frame of reference for identifying the historical roots of social work, defining its core as well as professional and research territory relative to other professions and disciplines, and placing evidence-based social work practice in a historical context. Keywords social work as practice, social work as science, history of ideas, history of social work

Research disciplines emerge and develop in specific historical contexts. Historical events and ideas associated with research disciplines can be explored from a vantage point of the history of ideas. A historical approach may help those within a discipline get a productive idea of its theoretical and methodological roots, and of its historical role in society. It may also help generate legitimacy for the discipline within the community of sciences. Social work is no exception. While both normative and programmatic definitions of social work have been developed over the years, no consensus has been reached as to the core, boundaries, objects of study, theories, and methodology of the scientific discipline. I perceive social work as a professional practice and a scientific...