For Work / Against Work
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"Hannah Arendt and social work: A critical commentary"

by Garrett, Paul Michael (2020)


Although social work engagement with Hannah Arendt has been meagre, it has been recently suggested that her conceptualisations are significant for the profession. This article seeks to problematise the presentation of Arendt to a social work readership, highlighting the failure to adequately historicise her work. In terms of her ideas, there is much to gain in examining this intellectuals prolific and often controversial contributions, and seven dimensions are identified as significant for the times in which we live. Nevertheless, there are still major criticisms which can be levelled at her core conceptualisations. The article dwells on Arendts theorisation of the private, the public and the social, and it is suggested that she is unaligned with sociologically informed theorisation underpinning critical and radical social work.

Key Passage

At least seven dimensions to her work appear which have stark and beneficial relevance for contemporary social work and the wider world. Each of these might give rise to future research and commentary.However, having outlined her ideas circulating around the ‘private’, the ‘public’ and the ‘social’, it was maintained that Arendt’s theorisation is riddled with major problems and that her work jars, in very fundamental ways, with more critical forms of theorisation within social work. Furthermore, this discussion has detailedArendt’s’ failure to provide any convincing account of the capitalist system in which the ‘social problems’, commanding practitioners’ attention and intervention, are constituted. More generally, despite the Arendt ‘brand’ appearing to be fashionable once again, this troubling political theorist’s significant corpus should notbe uncritically imported into social work. (p.51)


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