Eleven: Using sociology to inform practice

This chapter draws together the ideas of earlier chapters, arguing that the concepts discussed are interlinked and interdependent in relation to people’s lives. They form the basis of the society in which social work operates. The question posed is whether social work has properly recognised the fundamental shifts in societal organisation and the increasing difficulties this brings for (potential) service users. Social work as an occupation is largely one of engagement with the poor, and this book has shown how poverty is endemic in our economic system and affects all service user groups. By exploring society though the concepts of production, reproduction, consumption and community, a sociological analysis has been used that focuses on the life worlds that service users, and crucially social workers, inhabit.

There is considerable continuity in the contradictory nature of social work. The book has also shown how society is changing because of the decline of large-scale production in the West, a shift to the service sector industry and an attendant decline in traditional communities. The economic system remains capitalist, although the way it manifests itself has changed. It has been suggested that it is the nature of consumption and choice that has come to be the dominant theme in this renewed version of market-driven capitalism. This has in turn created new challenges for social workers. Consumption creates the illusion of equality, masking the clearer inequalities associated with production.

The first part of this conclusion focuses on social work practice, and shows how sociology can inform all stages of intervention.

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