International Perspectives on Social Work


International Perspectives on Social Work

We talked to Claudia Lohrenscheit, Andrea Schmelz, Caroline Schmitt, and Ute Straub, who jointly publish the textbook „Internationale Soziale Arbeit und soziale Bewegungen“ (International Social Work and Social Movements)

To what extent are social movements and social work interwoven?

“They are historically connected not only through their shared critique of social conditions, but also through professional and personal networks of relationships, because many pioneers of social work were also active in various movements at the same time. The attribution “social” is found in the movements as well as in the profession/discipline and the common object is the social conditions. If the social movements bring social problems and social contradictions into the public sphere, social work takes on the task of taking them up and working on them. Both are internationally networked from the beginning and are in transnational exchange. From our perspective, it is important to note: Social work has its origins not exclusively in so-called poor relief, charity, and benevolence/welfare, but also in politically active, society-changing social movements.”

You illustrate social movements and social work with case studies from around the world. How did you manage to find these examples?

“The editors as well as the other authors of the textbook are themselves actively involved in social movements and/or have been researching in these fields for many years and are accordingly well networked. The socially significant, creative engagement of social movements is also directly on our own doorstep and is a source of inspiration. In studies and teaching, in research and practice, it is always worthwhile to link up with social movements, and at the same time social workers from practice as well as from academia worldwide find in the movements a place where they feel “at home” – whether in harmony with or in opposition to the policies of the universities, institutions and organizations for which they work.”

Why is it necessary to bring the international and political dimensions of social work back to the forefront of the discipline?

“Transnational problems make up a large part of social work practice. At the same time, civic space, the space for action for social correctives, is eroding worldwide. Progressive social change is being replaced by creeping disenfranchisement – we see this in the voids of social protection, for example, when people die in the Mediterranean or racism, discrimination and populism are legitimized. If social work wants to counteract this, it must (again) intervene more strongly in society, as laid down in the global code of ethics of the international professional associations. There, the profession commits to using the power and influence given to it by the state, as well as the authority to take action for more social justice for and together with people, to bundle inclusive voices in their polyphony and to support them in making their voices heard worldwide. We stand behind this commitment and see ourselves as being in the tradition of critical social work.”


Prof. Dr. Claudia Lohrenscheit, Prof. Dr. Andrea Schmelz, Prof. Dr. Caroline Schmitt and Prof. Dr. Ute Straub jointly publish the textbook „Internationale Soziale Arbeit und soziale Bewegungen“ (International Social Work and Social Movements) from the Social Work Study Course. The book gives an insight into the interlocking of social movements and social work from an international perspective. With selected case studies from around the world, it provides a practical introduction to the basics and corresponding topics and fields of action of international social work.