Will History Repeat Itself? An Overview of the Development of Knowledge for the Professional Social Worker
The Industrial Revolution transformed the social, economic, political and intellectual landscape of the United States. This transformation also manifested in a philosophical shift within social work practice, eventually leading to the field seeking professional status. In addition to briefly elaborating on this shift, this paper will discuss how the process of, and commitment to, professionalizing social work has affected the pursuit of knowledge over time, and has resulted, for better or for worse, in a professional emphasis on building practice knowledge through scientific research. As described in more detail herein, there have been mixed reactions and conflicting implications to social work’s commitment to positivist and neo-positivist methods as a means of garnering relevant knowledge. The conclusion of this analysis will address how these themes in social work’s history influence current practice, and will provide concrete suggestions toward a new direction for the profession.