Origins of Social Work

Social work is a typically modern profession and discipline. Its development was necessitated by the economic, social and political transformation which marked the transition from a traditional to a modern society. Its mandate is to support people, threatened with isolation, poverty, marginalisation as well as their psychological implications to realise their social citizenship. This development took place in various phases which are briefly introduced, in parallel with the various models of "welfare regimes" that came to characterise European nation states. The purpose of the module is to show that "helping" of this formal kind implies the mediation between "private troubles" and "public issues" and is therefore always of a political nature.

Origins of Social Work

The course provides an introduction to the historical circumstances surrounding the beginnings of welfare measures in Europe in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. It is based on the sociological categorisation of pre-modern and modern forms of solidarity, the latter of which have to be organised, fostered and protected by explicit welfare arrangements.

The module provides participants with a basic understanding of the specific nature of social work as an academic discipline and as a profession from an historical perspective. It therefore helps to correct misunderstandings of the helping process in social services and allows to recognise the personal and the political nature of this highly delicate process. Students will learn that the processes that brought about modern societies, with their promises of liberty and equality but also with their dangers of dependency, destitution and exclusion, are continuously at work. They will be able to identify the outlines of similarities and differences  between present social policy options and those of early industrialisation.

(1) Thompson, E.P. (1991), The Making of the English Working Class. London: Penguin. (2) Durkheim, É. (1984, orig. 1893), The Division of Labor in Society. New York: The Free Press.

  • Lorenz, W. (2010), Globalizzazione e Servizio Sociale in Europa, Il Servizio Sociale,/115 Carocci Faber, Roma ISBN 978-88-7466-547-1. 
  • Lorenz, W. (2006), Perspectives on European Social Work – From the Birth of the Nation State to the Impact of Globalisation, Leverkusen Opladen: Barbara Budrich Publishers, ISBN-10 3-86649-008-9.

The course consists of 9 impulse lectures followed by exercises in self-study with guidelines for the exploration of key-texts and otherrelevant  sources of information concerning the background to the course topic

Attendance certificates willbe issued on submission of a 2 page summary of salient points of the overall topic of the module submitted online
Social origins of modernity

This section deals with the fundamental processes of transformation that occurred in the aftermath of the industrial revolution


Lecture - Social origins of modernity (05'36'')
Effects of industrialisation

Disruption of social bonds was as extensive with migration from rural areas as we are witnessing today with the translocation of people in the context of globalisation


Lecture - Effects of industrialisation (05'19'')
From mechanical to organic solidarity

This section raises questions of how social bonds can be re-established in conditions of "anonymity" in urban concentrations and what instruments were developed to stabilise society


Lecture - From mechanical to organic solidarity (06'35'')
Community and three forms of capital

Just as economic capital (money, means of production) was unequally distributed in society with the emergence of capitalism as the dominant economic system, so 'social' and 'cultural' capital also decided over privileged or disadvantaged positions in modern societies


Lecture - Community and three forms of capital (13'08'')
Necessity of "organised helping"

While the work of charities was important for providing 'first aid' to people stranded in the problematic situation of urban dwellings, the call for a more systematic approach to solving structural issues of inequality, disease and poverty became ever louder, depending on the type of political orientation of the respective European governments


Lecture - Necessity of "organised helping" (15'39'')
From charity to professional social work

Professional approaches to social work are characterised by their reference to scientific studies of human behaviour, in particular the need to respect the dignity and the self-determination capacities of each person. Professionalisation tries to overcome the limitations of forms of spontaneous, voluntary assistance (and their moralistic implications)


Lecture - From charity to professional social work (09'48'')
Political responses to poverty

Gradually poverty came to be recognised as a political issue; psychological explanations (laziness, lack of responsibility, ignorance etc.) were refuted by sociological surveys that manifested the link betweenpoverty and economic and political "regimes". Correspondingly, different political orientations provided different solutions to combating poverty


Lecture - Political responses to poverty (05''57)
Social pedagogy and subsidiarity

The development of different methods and approaches to "social work" corrisponded to the different "welfare regimes" that developed in Europe. This section looks at "social pedagogy" as a method that stimulates self-help, as does the social policy principle of "subsidiarity" which gained prominence particularly in Germany


Lecture - Social pedagogy and subsidiarity (07'28'')

This section summarises the main points of this module in which the broad outlines of modern welfare arrangements were described


Lecture - Conclusion (03'42'')
Modalità del Corso
Stato del Corso
Auto apprendimento
3 settimane
5 ore/settimana
Ore formazione
Scienze Sociali
Avvio Iscrizioni
20 May 2016
Apertura Corso
22 Jun 2016
Inizio Tutoraggio
22 Jun 2016
Fine Tutoraggio
22 Jul 2016
In autoapprendimento da:
23 Jul 2016
Chiusura Corso
Non impostato

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Educational sciences

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