Social Theory for Social Work: Ideas and Applications, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Social Theory for Social Work

Ideas and Applications, 1st Edition

By Christopher Thorpe


186 pages

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Trying to understand how the world looks through the eyes of individuals and groups and how it shapes the ways they think and act is something social workers do all the time. It is what social theorists do too. This book identifies and explains in a highly accessible manner the absolute value of social theory for social work. Drawing on the theoretical ideas and perspectives of a wide range of classical and modern social theorists, the book demonstrates the insights their work can bring to bear on a wide range of social work practice scenarios, issues and debates.

Departing with the work of the classical theorists, the book covers a diverse range of theoretical traditions including phenomenology, symbolic interactionism, Norbert Elias, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, feminism and globalization theory. Putting to work ideas from these different perspectives, a range of social work scenarios, issues and debates are opened up and explored. The final chapter brings together the various theoretical strands, and critically considers the contribution they can make towards realizing core social work values in a rapidly globalizing world.

Demonstrating exactly how and in what ways social theory can make important and enduring contributions to social work, Social Theory for Social Work is essentialial reading for social work students, practitioners and professionals alike.



"This wonderfully clearly written book shows professiomal and trainee social workers how they can greatly improve their practice by becoming practical sociologists. It also demonstrates to sociologists how their ideas can inspire concrete activities that are socially beneficial and positively transformative" - David Inglis, University of Helsinki.

"A rich meditation on the intersection between social theory and social work. Christopher Thorpe’s excellent contribution brings into focus the importance of ideas and concepts for social work. Wonderful to see the inclusion of Norbert Elias who reflects on the emergence of new forms of ‘civilized’ life mirrored by much of social work’s front-line engineering." - Stephen A. Webb, Glasgow Caledonian University.

"Social Theory for Social Work by Chris Thorpe provides a very good foundation for sociological social work approaches to professional practice that many of us have been advocating. It covers crucial sociological perspectives from Durkheim to Bourdieu and applies them to social work, using a critical reflective stance. Moreover, its approach to theory is one that students and practitioners can easily follow." - Lena Dominelli, Co-Director, Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, Durham University.

Table of Contents

List of tables

Chapter 1: Introduction: Why Social Theory Matters for Social Work

Chapter 2: Classical Social Theory and Modern Social Problems

Chapter 3 Phenomenology and Social Theory: Exploring the Life-World of the Service User

Chapter 4: Symbolic Interactionism and the Social Self

Chapter 5: Norbert Elias: Emotions, Rationality and Self-Restraint

Chapter 6: Michel Foucault: Social Work and Professional Power

Chapter 7: Pierre Bourdieu: Symbolic Violence and Self-Exclusion

Chapter 8: Feminist Social Theory and Social Work

Chapter 9: Globalization and Social Work

Chapter 10: Conclusion: The Future of Social Work and Social Theory


About the Author

Christopher Thorpe is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Exeter. His areas of expertise include classical and modern social theory, cultural sociology and social justice. Previously he was at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, where he taught sociology and social theory to social work students. Together with David Inglis, he is author of An Invitation to Social Theory (2012).

About the Series

Student Social Work

This textbook series is ideal for all students studying to be qualified social workers, whether at undergraduate or Masters level. Covering key elements of the social work curriculum, the books are accessible, interactive and thought-provoking.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / Health Care Delivery