From Analysis of the Profession of Social Work to Analysis of the Professional Field of Social Work

  • Arūnas Poviliūnas
  • Ieva Adomaitytė-Subačienė
Keywords: the sociology of professions, the field of professional activity of social work, P. Bourdieu


Social work theorists agree that the influence of Bourdieu’s sociology on social work is broadening and deepening. On the other hand, when it comes to the social work pro­ fession, the same theorists ignore Bourdieu’s preference for moving from the study of the profession to the analysis of the professional field. Bourdieu considered the concept of the profession to be a conceptualisation of a bureaucratic nature that, as the manifes­ tations of heteronomy, contradicts the logic of the scientific approach. In this paper, we aim to fulfil Bourdieu’s claim and, by applying it to social work, move from the analysis of the profession of social work to the study of the professional field of social work. The paper seeks to answer how the treatment of the forms of activity or practices associ­ ated with social work changes when the study of the social work field replaces the anal­ ysis of the social work profession. By comparing the professional fields of social work in three different countries – the USA, Japan and Lithuania – we conclude that the profes­ sional field approach, as opposed to the profession approach, provides the preconditions for the inclusion of social empowerment practices in the field of social work which, from the point of view of the profession of social work, remain outside the bureaucratic regulations of social work.