Epistemology of Social Work - Philosophy and Methodology of Science

Epistemology of Social Work

The concept of & quot; epistemology & quot; focussed on the philosophical theory of scientific knowledge. Epistemological (or, more generally, epistemological), the problems of social work differ significantly from those epistemological problems with which natural sciences have to deal. If the object of natural science is objective phenomena existing relatively independently of the knowing subject (the microcosm, the universe, the structure of living organisms, etc.), the object of social work is formed in society, and to a large extent - is constructed by society, so the epistemology of social work is:

- scientific knowledge of existing social practices;

- forecasting the development of social work and social policy in general for a certain period.

It is not difficult to see that the identification of ontological aspects of social work is closely related to epistemological problems. At the same time, under modern conditions, the epistemology of social work is becoming topical. An urgent need is to identify the specifics of the theory of social work as a social and humanitarian science.

Note that for social work, the problem of theoretical distinction between theory and practice is topical. Each science is a systemic relationship of theoretical and empirical knowledge, theory, methods, research techniques. However, with regard to the theory of social work, for some reason, it is asserted that its peculiarity is the unity of knowledge and skills, what is more, that "this is its fundamental principle." Of course, the scientist needs the skills of the researcher. If these skills are meant, then this principle is fundamental for any science. If we are talking about the practical professional skills of a social worker, then they are not necessary for the researcher in the same way as a political scientist does not need to have practical skills of politics.

Moreover, the concept of "social work as a science", in which the object of science and knowledge about this object actually identifies (unscientific!), is extremely common. The absurdity of the concept becomes obvious if, by the same scheme, the concepts of "nature as a science", "religion as science" are constructed; etc. It is clear that nature is an object of natural science, religion is an object of religious studies. Social work is the object of the theory of social work or scientific knowledge about social work. Unfortunately, there has not yet been invented a meaningful and easy-to-reproduce concept to denote knowledge about social work as opposed to social work as an institution and as a professional activity.

Often, researchers talk about the paradigms of social work, without specifying what they are related to: theory or practice. So, L. V. Topchii justly emphasizes: "The paradigm always carries in itself a set of methodological principles". However, the totality of the principles of social work as a practical activity differs significantly from the principles of cognition of this activity in the same way as a set of principles of politics does not coincide with a set of principles of political science.

Thus, one of the most important problems of the epistemology of social work is the conceptual-categorical comprehension of the existence of social work. It is a question of realizing one of the most important functions of the social work philosophy at the present stage - the function of the explication of universals. This is the most important function of philosophical knowledge in general, as "philosophy reveals (explicates) the most general ideas, ideas, forms of experience on which this or that particular culture or socio-historical life of people as a whole is based. They are called culture universals. " Among such universals, there are, for example, the categories & quot; reason & quot ;, & quot; consequence & quot ;, & quot; opportunity & quot ;, & quot; reality & quot; etc. As for the philosophy of social work, we are talking about universals - general concepts that would allow to form a kind of "logical framework", the categorical basis of the theory of social work, the methodological apparatus of its research.

On the one hand, the selection of the structure-forming concepts of the theory of social work depends on a concrete understanding of the boundaries of its existence, on the other hand, the ontological model of social work is formed with the help of appropriate concepts and categories.

In this regard, we should again pay attention to the role of philosophy in understanding the ideological and methodological problems of a particular profession. The practice of social work enters into the system of established (or emerging) social relations; in particular, he perceives the available professional terminology as a given, seeks to comprehend pre-existing concepts and categories. However, the philosophical view leads to the conclusion that even the fundamental term "social work" "Little is convenient for scientific usage and explication on its basis of the conceptual-categorical series, which is the foundation of the theory", the concept of "work" in Russian "implies a passive, almost submissive state, behavior and functioning of the object, as a person in the system of social work".

Attempts to build categorical series for theoretical description of social work are undertaken by many authors.

So, very fruitful in the philosophical and theoretical terms, but still not appreciated, and most importantly - not further developed, is the attempt of IA Zimnya to introduce a system-forming concept of "socioecology of the person" to build around it a conceptual apparatus that shows interdisciplinary tendencies in the theory and practice of social work. Indeed, the concept of "socioecology" reflects not only the main object of social work (the client, a person who has fallen into a difficult situation), but also its specific social environment.

Of interest is also the attempt of LG Guslyakova as a system-forming concept to propose the term "the mechanism of realizing the vital forces". The significance of this concept is determined by the fact that the process of socialization/resocialization of the personality is impossible without the activation of its vital forces. The concept of & quot; vitality & quot; becomes the leader for vitalistic (from Latin vita - life) theory of social work.

E. I. Kholostova makes an attempt to generalize and differentiate existing terms, highlighting the main groups of concepts and categories:

- common for social work and other humanities (social relations, socialization, personality, etc.);

- related to the theory of social work primarily, but used in other sciences (psychosocial work, social rehabilitation, etc.);

- proper categories of social work (social work, targeted social assistance, etc.).

The group of concepts "reflecting the specifics of the organization of social work in various spheres of social practice" and a group of concepts reflecting various aspects of the organization of professional and volunteer social work, a technological approach to rendering social work are singled out in content.


P. D. Pavlenok proposes to systematize the categorical apparatus through the & quot; key concept & quot; - social work. Close, but not identical, notions of "social protection", "social support", "social assistance" are adjacent to it. "They are original elements of social work, allocated in the process of operationalization of the key concept of".

M. A. Lygina believes that the category of the categorical structure of the philosophical theory of social work is the category "difficult life situation".

Apparently, an attempt to single out a single system-forming concept, as "key" for the theory of social work is deliberately doomed to failure because the very being of social work turns out to be a multilateral, diverse, "polysphere". Indeed, on the one hand, social work, like any phenomenon formed in public life, can be considered as a societal phenomenon. On the other hand, since the main result of social work - socialization (re-socialization) of the individual, this phenomenon refers to the world of man, to the sphere of being of personality. of a third party, the development of social work, the attitude of society and the state to it essentially depend on its specific axiological evaluation in the given society, therefore social work belongs to the world of values, is an essential element of axiological existence.

Thus, at least three ontological categorical series can be distinguished, performing the epistemological function of social work research. These categorical series form possible philosophical and methodological approaches to the study and analysis of the latter, which ideally should be adequate to the essence and specificity of the existence of social work:

- socially-activity approach, when social work is considered as a specific type of activity of society and man;

- culturally-civilizational approach, in which social work is explored as a societal phenomenon belonging to specific types of culture and civilization, specific types of sociality;

- an individual-personal approach, in which social work is analyzed as the most important factor in socializing an individual.

Each of these approaches has its own notion of a categorical apparatus, which can also be used fruitfully for the philosophical study of social work.

The choice of appropriate approaches is determined, in particular, by the specific research subject social work. There are two types of such subjects:

- social work practices, which explores it as an existing phenomenon in terms of assimilating and implementing the existing paradigm social activities;

- social work theorist, carrying out a broader approach: analysis and forecasting of this social phenomenon in the social system policy and a wider system of social life.

Note that there is a broader approach to understanding the subjects of social work. Thus, PD Pavlenok identifies five groups of such subjects. However, from the point of view of the relation to epistemology and methodology, it is important to identify the specifics of the professional activity of subjects of social work: either primarily practical or predominantly theoretical.

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