You are on page 1of 13


DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2397.2008.00548.x J O U R NA L O F
Int J Soc Welfare 2008: 17: 182193 SOCIAL WELFARE
ISSN 1369-6866

Oxford, Articles

XXX &work
2008 Webb
UK as art revisited
Journal of
Social Welfare
compilation Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare

Social work as art revisited

Gray M, Webb SA. Social work as art revisited Mel Gray, Stephen A. Webb
Int J Soc Welfare 2008: 17: 182193 2008 The Author(s), Institute for the Advanced Study for Humanity (IASH), University
Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the of Newcastle, Australia
International Journal of Social Welfare.

In this article we revisit social work as art, noting that it is

just over 20 years since Englands book on the subject
provided a direction for the professions early defence against
empiricism. Those who picked up the ball handed to them by
England tended to focus discussions of social works art on
its soft side, embedding it in notions of creativity, meaning,
self-expression, intuition and quality, all of which were
said to characterise the aesthetic dimensions of social work
practice as a counterpoint to the rising tide of hard empiricism,
proceduralism and managerialism. Within these aesthetic
dimensions, proponents of social work as art sought to
resolve tensions through advocating a value-based artistic
approach to care. Against this we argue that art is struggle and
resolution, soft and hard, joy and grief. Further, we posit that
social works art lies not in the social worker as artist but
rather in social work as the work of art, which is implicitly
a non-productivist endeavour. In a fundamental sense we
argue that it is the art of social work and not the social worker
that assembles what is practice, that provides bounds and lets
everything stand in relation to everything else. This enables Key words: radical agonistics, phenomenology, Martin Heidegger,
us to construct a speculative radical agonistics for social Alain Badiou, attunement; non-productionist, subtractive ontology
work that draws attention to the relation between art, truth and of truth
event. In so doing, we substitute a subjectivist reading of Prof. Mel Gray, Institute for the Advanced Study for Humanity
social work as art with an ontological analysis drawing on (IASH), The University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan,
Heideggers phenomenology, supplemented by the work of New South Wales 2308, Australia
Alain Badiou, to cast social work as art first, as artistic E-mail:
attunement, and second, as an art in the service of a politics
of liberation. Accepted for publication August 15, 2007

I am convinced that art represents the highest task subjectivist phenomenology of art. In so doing, our
and the truly metaphysical activity of this life intention is not to provide a comprehensive review of
(Friedrich Nietzsche). social work as art. Instead, we view it through the
lens of Hugh England in tandem with advances in
Most of those who write about the art of social work phenomenological research. Englands pioneering book
write about that art as inhering in the individual social (England, 1986), published just over 20 years ago,
worker. We take a radically different approach in this remains a pivotal analysis of the concept of social work
article. As a general strategy, this article avoids trying as art and debate about the fundamental nature of
to reduce everything to subjectness, i.e. to social work and, as such, is worth revisiting given
subjectness in its various guises in the practice of developments that have emerged since he wrote this
social work where the social work practitioner or book. England portentously saw the rise of the
individual client or worker are seen as subjects, that is evidence-based practice movement and his book
to say as the fulcrum on which everything turns. Rather expresses his ambivalence about it. On the one hand, he
than an attempt merely to construct theory or to achieve wanted to embrace it, yet on the other, he anticipated
a unity of theory and practice, the article intends to the way in which instrumentalism and reductivism
provide an ensemble of ideas that integrates theory, a would stifle social works art.
speculative orientation to practice, and experience and A parallel to what we are attempting to do can be
sensibility through the particular formulation of a non- found in Nel Noddings (2003) much misunderstood

2008 The Author(s)

Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare.
182 Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
Social work as art revisited

ethic of care. She is at great pains to show that care is narrative as ones inner connection with the outer
not primarily an individual virtue, something that world a means of explanation and preservation of
inheres in the subject. It is not enough for the social integrity and worth. When it comes to understanding,
worker to claim that s/he cares. If the client feels that the narrative can say albeit often cryptically much
nobody cares, then an ethic of care does not pertain. about how the teller wants to be known and treated, and
Hers is a relational ethics, and not a virtue ethics. An where the teller stands in the larger world (Goldstein,
individuals virtuous character or good intentions is not 1999a: 7). Goldstein believed that the social worker
sufficient in an ethic of care. An ethic of care depends could learn how to be a creative practitioner, that her
on a potentiality within the boundaries of possible talents could be exploited and augmented by an
experience and the reciprocity between the one-caring appreciation of what the arts and humanities can teach
and the cared-for. It inheres, or better still, is immanent (Goldstein, 1999a: 5).
in the mutuality of the caring relationship and not Goldstein, then, drew attention to the stories clients
merely in the qualities of the individuals doing the tell and to the social workers skills in attuning these
caring or being cared for. In other words, Noddings with the life-world of the client. But, on another level,
ethics of care is ontological. It is based on the view that if that work be art, then art too has its own rules; art is
humans are relational beings and for caring to eventuate, not always about resolution or harmony or beauty.
a context must be created where the one caring and the There is a conception of art that wholly reflects this
one cared for both derive benefit from the caring aesthetic view and it is the one most commonly put
relationship. I cannot care for you if you do not want forth in social work. But the creativity and playfulness
to be cared for by me and I am not caring for you if of artists positioned within a risk-averse environment
you do not feel cared for by me. By the same token, are stifled by instrumental rationality that simply
the mother filled with good intentions who smothers her calculates. In such situations, artists have no choice but
child is not a caring mother in Noddings terms. Nor is to rebel. Real artists play, and certainly this is one of
the father who over-protects his daughter, not allowing the most immediate forms of direct experience. Pathos,
her to develop her own sense of independence (see joy, humour and fear combine in an endless flow of
Semetsky, 2006). intense moments. Bela Bartoks modernist music
Like the ethic of care, our concept of social work as beautifully captures this ambivalence in the way he
art does not rest only on the virtuous social worker exploits tone and dissonance to reflect the pungency
doing all the right things, but on the myriad factors of his Eastern European roots (Forte, 1960). Modern
which create the art of what social workers do: the art survives its assimilation to the functional totality
clientworker relationship, professional requirements, its relegation to mere entertainment by becoming
agency environment, social policy and so on. We will difficult, introverted, dissonant and shocking. With an
argue that the art inheres in the work of the social. imaginative reverie, artists must possess their own
There is a relationship between what the individual irreverent rules. Bey (1994) insists that artists must
social worker does and the broader context in which her often sacrifice the social to a tyrannical muse. Art dies
or his work is situated. The choice is not the individual when treated fairly. It must enjoy a cavemans wildness
social workers, but the work, which conveys what must or else have its mouth filled with gold by some exotic
be done. Princess. Artists struggle for their art. Bureaucrats and
Generally, there is at least tacit agreement in social managers eschew it and spit it out. Art resists the
work that the work, that is to say the processes of mundane and the normative dimensions. We shall
helping, embodies what is variously called an inductive, contend that social work in the service of art is
creative or intuitive dimension, and that it expresses incommensurate with what Heidegger calls the dominant
humanistic concerns with values and beliefs. Largely, productionist metaphysics of calculative reason and
the workers talents are typically lumped together into technical rationality. Moreover, the agonistic relation of
something called the art of practice, but without clear art to the social world brings centre-stage the formative
definition about the meaning of the term. All too few aspects of art in a way that conveys the possibilities for
scholars have approached the question about social understanding the very sense of the work of the social
work as art (England, 1986; Goldstein, 1990; Gray, as art and the authentic truth such work can bring forth.
2002; Gray & Askeland, 2002; Siporin, 1988), and How then does this extreme characterisation of art
however art is considered, it remains elusive and for bode for a social work audience? We are cognizant that
some, chimerical. The essence of the art of practice, such a perspective may be rubbished as quirky. It may
when valued for its own sake, is, according to Goldstein also be regarded as incommensurate with the realities
(1999a: 5), expressed in many humanistic genres of frontline practice and out of step with the austere
within the text and dialogue of the relationship, [and] governmentality of policymakers. So be it. It is exactly
is the foundation for a narrative approach to working these kinds of so-called realities that we are pitching
with people and their ordeals of living. He saw this ourselves against. The idea raised above about the

2008 The Author(s)

Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 183
Gray & Webb

evacuation of the social by art is especially telling if

The work of the social as art
social work is to ground its endeavours in a terrain of
political change and move beyond paying lip-service to So what does it mean to practice the work of the social
a transformative social work. If we are to avoid the tame in an artful way? Better still, what is the arts work in
and lame constructions of social work that are cut social work? Is it simply to find oneself imbued with
from the cloth of the artistic genre, this type of some artistic temperament or disposition? Or perhaps it
reckoning must push the boundaries further than have is about practicing direct work in a creative and
hitherto been expressed. It must penetrate to reveal expressive manner? Maybe it is about recognising the
some vitality commensurate with the angst of art, or value of art as a form that has special significance to
what we refer to as radical agonistics. It is our contention the aesthetics of working with clients? But what is this
that like all other human beings, social workers need value of art implicit in each of these characterisations?
the peak experience of art. This necessity rests not As we shall see, Hugh England certainly did not
only in the free space of the imagination, as Rimbaud address these aspects directly in his much-cited book.
(in Robb, 2000) contends, but also in the work of art Art, when usually experienced as creativity, inspiration,
itself in giving value and meaning to social work. And representation and poesis, can take on an enigmatic
it points to a different kind of transformative social or chimerical, to use Goldsteins (1999a) term aspect
work, starting with a phenomenology for practice that when the usual questions are asked. Is it an affective
interpolates the flow of peak moments as a tense disclosure of a special kind of subjectivity? A
relation in the work of art. To develop this perspective caricature? A more elementary relation with creativity?
we draw on the recent writing of the French social Yet, despite these current and quite reassuring
theorist, Alain Badiou, to supplement our pheno- metaphors, the value of art for social work cannot be
menological analysis. Thus, we consider the relevance reduced to the simple aspect of expression through a
of art for social work not only in terms of so-called form of symbiosis between practice and art. That is, it
metaphysical qualities of the sublime and the charming, cannot be configured as something that has value in
but also with the tragic and grotesque, both dimensions itself simply because it is artistic, or because it conveys
of which are experienced as intense and fragile, perhaps some positive aesthetic aura of experiential practice.
transformative, moments. From such a perspective social For us there is a deeper reading that shifts the horizon
work is cast as, first, an artistic attunement, and second, of interpretation beyond a narrow psychological schema
an art in the service of a politics of liberation. Put that joins personal experience to creativity. We suggest
another way, the work of art requires an attunement that the problem associated with this kind of treatment
with or direct experience of the truth that reveals itself is that it relies heavily on an ontological-aesthetic
and, in so doing, creates its own ethic that puts us in account of subjectivity. Here is the criticism. This
the service of those whom we seek to free from treatment reduces to what is ultimately a solipsistic
oppression. account of the value of art relating the practitioner as
Typically, the social work as art mantra has invoked artist to the object of art sculpting, canvas, musical
creativity, intuition and self-expression as a counterpoint score, artful practice using a flawed correspondence
to a stale set of normative and prescriptive practices. model of truth. This perspective regards truth as
The mantra is also indicative of sentimentality for a lost consisting in a relation to reality, such that it involves
social world where people connected in some deep and a relational property involving a characteristic relation
meaningful way. This mantra was partly set in place (to be specified) to some portion of reality (to be
by the classical text by Hugh England written in 1986. specified) (online entry, Stanford Encyclopaedia of
Today this small book, Social Work as Art, resonates Philosophy).
with certain affirmative sensibilities among practitioners We take a different route in considering the value of
and researchers alike. Put in plain terms, there is art for social work by drawing on the luminous
something that feels right about a work such as this, phenomenological writings of Heidegger and more
which explores the importance of the intuitive use of recent works of Badiou. In so doing, we bracket terms
self for social work practice. As epigones working in that normally dominate considerations of this kind, such
this tradition, for us this is suggestive of much more as individual creativity, aesthetic experience, artistic
than an aesthetic appeal towards the creative aspects of intention, subjective taste and artistic judgement.
social work. Rather, it is also indicative of a reactionary These aesthetic terms have dominated our thinking
sentiment that partly relates to a sense of mourning, or about the value of art in modern times and were
a loss progressively engendered by the deskilling of encapsulated in the Art for Arts Sake movement of
the task, the degradation of work, the reduction of the late 19th century. Thus, we wish to resist the kind
professional autonomy, the break-up of professional of sentiment expressed by Oscar Wilde in his 1891
identities and the consumerist marketisation of clients essay The Soul of Man under Socialism where he tells
as service-users. us that A work of art is the unique result of a unique

2008 The Author(s)

184 Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare
Social work as art revisited

temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the wants to group social work as a form of art with
author is what he is. As we shall show, this subjectivist other categories of art to show how it differs from
aesthetic with its vicious self-referential autonomy is science (see also Goldstein, 1992).
quite plainly wrong. As Noddings shows, good Social work as art, on the other hand, is not about
intentions can harm. It is worth reminding the reader the play of creative difference but about discerning
that while we wish to avoid the gushing sentimentality what it is at its core. In this sense, England sees social
often associated with discussions of art and social work, work primarily as art, as having the qualities of art,
we want to attenuate the radical agonistics of art by particularly when referring to components of good
viewing the imaginary realm as (in)tensely configured practice. But he wants to show that even as art social
in events via reference to depth phenomenology. But we work can be evaluated. Here he draws parallels with art
are moving ahead of ourselves here because it is criticism as an evaluative method. The fact that social
necessary to retrace and critically evaluate the steps work is an art rather than a science does not put it
taken by England in his defence of social work as art beyond the realms of science but rather demands that
before developing an alternative line of thinking. It is we find different means of evaluating it than we might
from this vantage point that we can better assess not do if it were only a science.
only the distinctive contribution he made to the social Thus, to justify his depiction of social work as an art
work literature, but also provide some constructive he has to discern the essential elements that make it so.
correctives to a perspective he developed some 20 years But this presents him with a dilemma because it leads
ago. While others have toyed with variations on this him into normative definitions and having to articulate
theme, most acknowledge the seminal nature of Englands what social work as an art is and what it comprises. He
work and have tried to augment his arguments about the sees the fact that social workers have extreme difficulty
value of social works art (Goldstein, 1990; Siporin, in describing and explaining what they do and why as
1988). being evidence in support of this claim, because he
wants to show that social work is more than its
constituent parts; he is adamant that definitions, no
Englands Social Work as Art revisited
matter how comprehensive, cannot sufficiently capture
In Social Work as Art (1986), Hugh England conceptualised what social workers do in practice. In this way, social
social work as a process by which practitioners, through work defies scientific precision, which requires that
the intuitive use of self, give meaning to the clients phenomena can be broken down into measurable
problem as interpreted through the practitioners own constituent parts. There is, he says, an implicitness in
experiences. An interactive model between social social work such that Good social workers know
worker and client is developed on the basis of a strong through their experience the value of their helping work
notion of intersubjectivity. The book takes a defensive with clients (England, 1986: 4). They work with the
stance in the sense that England uses the claim that the whole cloth or a populated, busy canvas and see the
intuitive use of self should be recognised as the basis whole of experience and, in practice, make
for social work as a rebuttal against the burgeoning judgements about unique circumstances (England,
proceduralisation, formality and objectivity that were 1986: 15). Social work is not just about bureaucratic
regarded as most important to social work organisations. procedure; for social workers, the helping role is never
His main concern was the encroachment of the increas- a matter of uniform provision but always involves
ingly dominant scientific, empirical and evaluative deliberation and heuristic judgement. This does not
models of intervention that were emerging at the time. mean, however, that social work as an activity cannot
Looking back over 20 years, let us examine more be subjected to critical scrutiny; it is not beyond
closely how England made sense of social work as art. evaluation. Essentially, then, England establishes,
It is not always easy to discern the sense in which following Timms and Timms (1977), that the boundaries
England views social works relationship with art. It is of social work are loosely drawn and permeable and
thus not clear whether England sees social work as an that social workers are always concerned with the
art as opposed to say a science or as art. At times delivery of personal services and with change and
he appears to use the concept metaphorically social problem solving.
work is like art and at other times metonymically art What then are the core features of social work as art?
represents those elements of social work that are art- To establish these we have to know what its central
like or are usually found in the arts. As an art, England concerns are and these England sees as revolving around
seeks to locate social work within the broad field of the coping or peoples social functioning and meaning
arts and humanities (see also Goldstein, 1997) drawing the way people see or perceive things (see Camilleri,
on the work of Rickman (1967). Thus, he uses the idea 1999). Social workers help to improve clients coping
of social work as an art in order to distinguish that capacity and their attempts to make sense of their
which it is not, rather than just that which it is. He experience. Much rests on the social workers interpretation

2008 The Author(s)

Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 185
Gray & Webb

of the clients world and this is always about judgement in social work. But he does not want to use art as a
and meaning. England sees it as a necessary condition hold-all for subjectivity and intuition (p. 86), i.e. for
of life that we try to impose order and coherence, to scientific imprecision wherein art is seen as some sort
create some sense of certainty in an uncertain world. It of intuitive skill such that theory is scientific and
is not just about reporting facts but also about practice is artistic. He is against giving art a residual
understanding the meaning people give them. In short, role as anything that is not science or cannot be
social workers are concerned, not with problems per se, explained, as a vehicle for disposing of the obvious and
but with peoples abilities to cope with them. In so imprecise subjectivity of social work (p. 87). Noting
doing, it focuses on the understanding and communication the similarities between art and social work, he draws
of meaning (Goldstein, 1999a). But herein lies the rub, on early definitions that described casework as an art,
for the social workers understanding is an elusive which made use of the science of human relations (p.
creation (England, 1986: 27; see also Goldstein, 89). Richmond talked of scientific mindedness and the
1999b). However, it is not necessarily mysterious, for artists practised skills (p. 89), which merge in creative
social workers draw implicitly from their personal people, implying that art is a practice skill. In moving
understanding and experience, and the meaning they towards social work as art, he refers to Millards notion
give intuitively to the clients experience even though of the therapeutic imagination (p. 97) and Rapoports
they might be guided by formal learning. emphasis on creativity and style: it is possible to apply
England is more concerned with knowledge built some principles of aesthetics to a given piece of social
from direct experience than abstract knowledge, for he work practice (which we sometimes describe as) . . .
sees this as evolving into an intuitive understanding that beautiful (p. 99) (see also Siporin, 1988). But thus far,
guides judgement; phenomenologically he talks about says England, these authors have not gone far enough
an attunement with the client. Thus, he sees creativity in grappling with subjectivity in social work (p. 100).
as central to social workers ability to understand their England attempts to take the exploration further by
clients world and to their use of expressive, persuasive examining art appreciation and art criticism as a
and evocative language to communicate this understanding vehicle to help us learn to work with fluid reality and
to the client. England aestheticises what the social aesthetic experience, which requires more than
worker does, creating the impression that art inheres intellectual effort. Social work, like art, demands the
in what social workers do in communicating meaning realisation of experience (England, 1986: 104) through
and understanding a lived understanding (England, the development of an aesthetic sensibility a particular
1986: 31) conveyed with genuineness where there is kind of perception, appreciation and understanding in
congruence between the words and behaviour of the art and in social work and consider how perceptions
social worker. England depicts this as a play within a form themselves into a sensible structure (p. 105). Here
play as the worker searches for meaning within the social works search for coherence within complexity leads
search for meaning. Importantly, though, England is to a focus on the whole man (sic) person in context
building his pivotal notion of the workers intuitive use and to an acceptance of the infinite complexity of
of self. He sees this as a stubborn ambiguity in practice: experience (p. 105). For England, like the poet, the
no matter how many procedures are put in place, social social worker brings together (and synthesises)
workers make decisions based on their intuition and disparate elements of the ordinary world (p. 106). He
emotions in the moment. This places the emphasis on is not just a critic, but a creative thinker able to give
the workers themselves and their essential capacities expression to his own understanding in a way which is
and competencies, such as an ability to relate to people, of value (p. 107). If social work is to be seen as art,
to listen and respond empathically and so on. then such concepts may help social work to construct a
Though leaning more towards an intuitive, pheno- genuinely viable approach to the criticism and assessment
menological approach, England tries to cover all bases, of practice (p. 108). Here, England is trying to develop
agreeing with those who see social work as a combination an argument for what we describe today as critically
of art and science wherein the disciplined use of self reflexive practice. He sees the objective world as
and intuitive understanding do not negate a rational subjectively created, anticipating social constructionism,
approach. In trying to discern good practice, he says but his main focus is communication and meaning: Art
we need a model that can grapple with the intuition and recognises and affirms social works emphasis not only
subjectivity inherent in social work. Thus, he asks: Can upon expression, but upon the necessarily intimate,
the arts . . . offer a paradigm for knowledge and practice personal character of that expression (p. 114). The
in social work? (England, 1986: 83). Yes, says England, artists role is to be skilled in helping others experience
for social work is an artistic activity: there is a sense meanings (p. 116). Like art, social work is involved in
in which the social worker can be seen as an artist clarifying the personal and moral meaning of social
(p. 84). A theory of social work that incorporates a theory issues and events (Goldstein, 1987, 1992, 1999a). It
of art could help deal with the problem of subjectivity belongs in the sphere of education, not health and

2008 The Author(s)

186 Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare
Social work as art revisited

treatment, and it cannot be confined to clinical activity takes seriously the individual life and the contribution
(the latter being the area developed by Siporin, 1988). of the active citizen to the reinvention of politics.
England wants to locate social work in the tradition While it is beyond the scope of this article to review
of art and sees debates in art as relevant for social work; Fergusons contribution, it is clear that his work on life
to identify social work as art is to attribute essential politics points us squarely in the direction of existential
social values to the individual the whole person. This phenomenology.
lies at the root of art, especially in literature (England,
1986: 115). Thus, art criticism teaches us to realise
Phenomenology of art
subjectivity, not to deny it; to embrace social work as
subjective and value-laden (p. 125). Anticipating a trend There is a paucity of phenomenological thinking in
that is to follow, England begins to outline a critical social work, particularly in relation to the application
approach, wherein the worker must evaluate his of the phenomenological method to aspects of
effectiveness with his client (p. 126). He experiences, professional education and practice. Given the neglect
analyses and evaluates his own behaviour. He believes that phenomenology has received at the hands of social
that through criticism [in other words a critical work, it may be helpful for readers if we sketched some
approach in the philosophical rather than Marxist sense] background contours highlighting several key features
we may achieve certainty about the real, experienced of this important philosophical tradition. We shall pay
world . . . through criticism . . . there is the possibility special attention to considerations involving the
of arriving at something outside ourselves, which may phenomenology of art. It is our contention that such
provisionally be called truth (Kermode, in England, considerations of the phenomenological rendering of
1986: 125, emphasis added). Rather than being art are instructive in the way we conceptualise the
impediments to evaluation, values, intuition and the like possibilities of the work of the social as art.
colour the way we evaluate what we do and or come to The etymology of phenomenology derives from the
know. The identification of social work as art makes Greek term phainomenon, which refers to the appearance
possible the identification of discernible stages in of things or phenomena (see Spinelli, 1989: 2). In its
critical practice (p. 126); the possible validity of art is simplest form, phenomenology is the description of
established by a process of experience, then analysis, phenomena as a person experiences them. The most
then through discussion and comparison of analysis, a general and essential characteristic of phenomena is that
shared understanding (p. 124). In highlighting the they exist as the consciousness of or the appearance
significance of creativity, imagination and art, England of the specific thoughts, objects or things being
leans heavily towards an existentialist lived experience experienced. A fuller definition would be that
approach, but neither he, nor anyone else to date, has phenomenology studies the genesis of the phenomena,
attempted a comprehensive modelling applying i.e. the constitution of phenomena in their essential flow,
phenomenology to social work (Webb, 2006: 17). In rhythm or sequence. Importantly, a phenomenologist
some key respects, Harry Ferguson is heir to Englands does not posit or construct, but describes whatever is
notion of social work as art, and certainly has loose given to her or him.1
affinities with the project. He brings some key issues For phenomenology we intuit to describe particular
raised by England back onto the social work agenda: concrete experiences of temporal objects, i.e. objects
for which time is essential. We can also begin to detect
Critical social work discourses tied to emancipatory
the way in which phenomenology unilaterally opposes
politics are . . . unable to deal theoretically, politically
what was considered to be the main characteristic of the
or practically with defining features of how people
new pattern of Western liberal society, i.e. the spirit of
have to live in a post-traditional order. What gets left
rational calculation and mere utility, as personified in
aside are most of the questions posed by the
sequestration of experience and moral issues
concerned with death, sexuality and the new intimacy. 1 One of the earliest definitions of phenomenology was
In emphasizing the negative impact on so many provided by Adolph Reinach in 1912 in developing his
social work users of their structurally limited life concept of premeditation for legal scholarship: Pheno-
menological analysis means that we are not permitted to
chances, such critiques pull practitioners away from inject the customary concepts of representation, thinking,
the moral questions and existential dilemmas posed feeling, and will in order to build up premeditation from
by the new choices, decisions and the strategies to them, a process which inevitably would involve the loss of
shape meaningful lives and relationships that now what is most essential to it. Rather we have to make an effort
to transpose ourselves into the phenomenon in order to be
face people in their daily lives (Ferguson, 2001: 47, able to render faithfully what we can intuit there (cited in
emphasis added). Spiegelberg, 1981: 193). Here we can see that it was the
first-hand intuiting of the essential core of the phenomena
What concerns Ferguson (2001: 49) is that this has that formed the main feature of Reinachs early phenomen-
hindered the development of a critical approach which ological method.

2008 The Author(s)

Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 187
Gray & Webb

the bourgeois with its boundless acquisitiveness, its Enlightenment philosophers such as Descartes, Locke
mechanical time and its indifference to quality in favour and Hobbes. It suggests a new way of thinking about
of quantity. This is true for the long line of eminent subjectivity for social work. Sokolowski (2000: 15)
phenomenological thinkers from Brentano, Husserl, explains this well:
Scheler and Hartmann to Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty,
What phenomenology does through its doctrine of
Ricoeur and Bachelard.
the intentionality of consciousness is to overcome
Contemporary theories of art have approached the
the Cartesian and Lockean bias against the
question What is art? from two dominant perspectives.
publicness of mind, which is also a bias against the
The first focuses on the creator of art (Nietzsches
reality of the appearance of things. For phenomenology,
approach), the second on the receiver of art (Kant and
there are no mere appearances, and nothing is just
Schopenhauers approach), and then from either
an appearance. Appearances are real; they belong to
perspective the nature of art is extrapolated upon.
being . . . Things that had been declared to be merely
Phenomenology dismisses both approaches, focusing
psychological are now found to be ontological, part
instead on the work of art itself. In so doing, it avoids
of the being of things.
the trap that both the spectator and creator approach
falls into by conceiving the essence of art as a They come to us as experience. Thus, for Ingarden,
psychological state and thereby degenerating into works of art were neither real nor ideal beings, but had
artistic aesthetics2 as we have shown England did in a purely intentional existence (Spiegelberg, 1981: 229),
relation to social work (and as many do with Noddings meaning that objects are created by and dependent on
ethic of care). acts of consciousness. For example, the capacity to
The Polish phenomenologist, Roman Ingarden, one experience a musical melody, as opposed to a single
of the closest disciples of Husserl, also devoted his instantaneous note, requires intentionality, as the ability
work to formulating a phenomenology of the work of to be conscious of the musical object as an entity that
art. Like Geiger, he wished to avoid the subjectivity endures through the flux of time. In the writings of
inherent in psychologism in constructing an ontology Husserl, this directedness of intentionality is explained
of the work of art. The key to avoiding the dominant in terms of the fulfilment of an intended meaning:
form of Cartesian subjectivist psychology for Ingardens An intention can be empty, or it can be fulfilled if
phenomenology was in developing the centrality of an objective correlate to the intention is given in
the concept of intentionality, the term most closely the experience (Tieszen, 2005: 25).
associated with phenomenology (Sokolowski, 2000: 8). There are two elements important in experience.
For Ingarden, there is a duality of structuration, which The first is the sense that it is open in time, meaning
both objects and subjects fall within, that is derived that it reaches beyond the now to both the retentional
from the pre-cognitive intentional structure of the past and a possible future. Thus, we anticipate that with
life-world. For example, in Cderic Kahns LEnnui, the a musical melody, for instance, the sound will prevail
structure of intentionality in the subjectobject relation until it reaches its end point. The second is the
is deliberately blurred throughout the movie to dramatic acknowledgement that art is always a cultural product;
effect. It starts with a fast moving car scene in a it is not a mere physical entity and, as such, it is never
Parisian city nightscape, with Martin, the philosophy- wholly determined, because it contains variables,
professor protagonist, telling the audience I always some of which the hearer or spectator will fill in or
knew Id die in a car crash, without knowing I had, or replace by constants (Tieszen, 2005: 230) based on
meaning to, as if the road were make believe, and I was past experience. The recommended method for
oblivious to the death-bearing trees and houses that lay identifying these constants, or attributes that provoke
in wait. The narrator does not intend to die in a car crash, a tension between the cultural product of art and the
neither is it fate that deals an unfortunate hand; instead experience of art itself, is to focus on the way in which
the intentionality lies in the immanence of the material the world opens up to us, to experience it directly free
architecture that relates car to road at the expense of from mental contaminations formed by instrumental
the driver. There is a sense, then, in which his death is interests. Husserl claimed that phenomenology as a
unavoidable it is engendered by material context. science must focus on the invariant, inconstant
The key point is that phenomenology moves us structures of what is out there: If we reflect on how the
beyond the egocentric predicament set in place by world is given to us, and focus on the invariant
structures of our experience we glean the structure of
2 Moritz Geiger was perhaps the first within the pheno- intentionality (Tieszen, 2005: 27). As we shall see, this
menological tradition to focus on the work of art from a provides a key insight for Heideggers historicisation of
philosophical standpoint. In his essay on the psychological
function of art as a phenomenon, art is contrasted starkly to
art as disclosure, his related critique of calculative
the ordinariness of everyday experience (see Spiegelberg, reason and the important thesis on the death of art in
1981: 201). modernity.

2008 The Author(s)

188 Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare
Social work as art revisited

history. In The Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger

Heideggers The Question Concerning Technology and
(1997) maintains that the instrumentalist or calculative
The Origin of the Work of Art
view of technology has limited validity. In social work
Alain Badiou (2005: 1) sees Heidegger as the last it has become a dominant worldview with the
universally recognizable philosopher. This is no small development of new technologies of care that narrow
compliment from an eminent thinker who was also a the possibilities for proximal face-to-face practice
friend and colleague of Jacques Derrida and Gilles (Webb, 2006: 141168). These constitute frontline
Deleuze. Heidegger maintained that philosophy can knowledge and practice at two levels. First, they provide
only be salvaged in Western thought by a return to for what counts or works as pivotal, i.e. what counts
Greek questions of ontology. Art was the vehicle by as an intervention or resource about which the
which he attempted to recover this fundamental priority propositions of empiricalanalytic science give us
and principle of ontology. It was during the 1930s that knowledge. In other words, what counts in relation to
Heidegger turned his attention to theorising art. In the calculative worldview is that which can be detected,
The Essence of the Truth (1930), he suggests that measured, accounted for and manipulated in the
the elucidation of art works is a privileged way of situation of evidence-informed environments. Second,
uncovering truth. He expanded this thesis in The Origin the instrumentalist worldview determines the general
of the Work of Art, a 1935 lecture series published in character of standards, guidelines and codes of practice
1950. He approached his theorising of art, not from the employed in calculating or predicting the truth and
standpoint of the artist, but from the perspective of the falsity of interventions or what works. Let us be
work of art. As Shawn Moi (2006: 17) explains, with clear about this state-of-affairs. This all-encompassing
this approach: instrumental rationality is totally in thrall to the status
quo epistemically, politically and functionally (Finlayson,
we are given a highly original conception of the art
2003). It is slavishly subservient to the dominant
work as that into which truth sets itself. Truth
worldview of advanced capitalism and its neoliberal
happens there. We are here of course referring to
truth as aletheia.3 That is, truth takes place and shape
Heidegger fiercely contested modernist assumptions
(Gestalt) in the work of art as the interchange of
about the progressive accumulation of scientific
concealment and clearing from which the Open is won.
knowledge and technical rationality. He argues that
For Heidegger, art and truth are concomitant concepts their dominance arises because of a one-dimensional
that imply each other. But just what kind of place or mode of understanding what things are. For Heidegger,
event is the Open for Heidegger? It is the arena wherein for something to be meant it must be disclosed or
the world and earth strive against one another it made manifest. By this, he means that for any
houses the Rift (Riss) that into which the strife of particular historical epoch, human culture is shaped by
world and earth has been fitted. Heidegger likens it the way in which things manifest or reveal themselves
to a tension between two opponents striving against one in time. For example, if things manifest themselves as
another This rift does not let the opponents break aspects of profitability of capital, people treat things
apart; it brings the opposition of measure and boundary one way; if things reveal themselves as shared or
into their common outline (in Moi, 2006: 23). This collective property, people treat them in another
notion of intrinsic tension fits very closely with what way. Heidegger came to view the one-dimensional,
we refer to as the agonistics of the work of the social technological mode of understanding of the history of
as art, which we develop further in our discussion about human subjectivity as calculative reason. He saw it
Badiou below. as one stage in history initiated in ancient Greece,
There is also an important critical dimension in the whereby a productionist metaphysics of being was
work of Heidegger that contrasts the technological with privileged: For the Greek founders of metaphysics, to
a creative worldview, which is decisive for our be meant to be produced. Plato inaugurated the
construction of a transformative social work. Heideggers modern technological worldview in which to be as a
interpretation of the technological worldview of late subject means to be compelled to produce more and
modern times differs radically from the much more more just for the sake of producing. This is why
familiar interpretation offered by anthropology and Heidegger was so vehemently opposed to the Art
for Arts Sake and Expressionist movements. For him
they simply replicated the bourgeois productionist
mentality through their aesthetic psychologism. With
3 In relation to artistic judgement and temperament, Heidegger this subjectivist aesthetics, the beautiful is not regarded
introduces the Ancient Greek term aletheia, truth as an
attunement of the work that depends on the necessity of the
as a manifestation of being, but rather a product of
freedom to be open and not bound by some rigid experiential reasoning. As Richard Owsley (2002: 3)
directedness or purposive reason (see Rapaport, 1997). points out:

2008 The Author(s)

Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 189
Gray & Webb

Heideggers particular example of art in the Origin preserving and sheltering or merely appreciating and
lecture illustrates his critique of the Expressionistic experiencing it.
tendency. While [others] . . . assume that the agent In contrast to Expressionist art, Heideggers treatment
of expression is a particular human being, Heidegger of Van Goghs Peasant Shoes emphasises the simplistic
attributes this function to Being-Itself. Aesthetic portrayal of an earthy everyday object.5 As Owsley (2002)
expression is less a psychological endeavor than an points out, the painting expresses inherent feelings of
ontological one. Art is not an instrument for an frustration, pain and concern that come much closer to
ethical message or a political ideology. This trivializes a phenomenological conception of art. He notes, The
the instrument and the message. To Heidegger, an art care with which Van Gogh has imbued his simple
work unconceals a condition of Being. The incidental subject matter is far from the grand visions of
properties may indicate psychological qualities, patriotism, righteousness or arrogance. The shoes are
stylistic points of view, or sociological conclusions; not beautiful but hard, heavy, bulky, and rough (p. 4).
however, these are, at best, pre-ontological antecedents Such painting is in line with Heideggers conclusions
to Being-Itself. Merely to study art, i.e. to catalogue that human Da-sein, existence or being-in-the-world,
and to classify a series of perspectives, is to fall short tenuously participates in the more expansive project of
of what art at its best has done, can do, and should Being as the totality of history. Such participation is
do: expose what it means To-Be. The latter qualities doomed to frustration, disappointment and anxiety.
are not ambiguous, deep-seated positions adopted by Heideggers entre into art occurs where Marc, Macke
human beings in context. They are the overwhelming and Klee leave off (see Young, 2001). Similarly, our
presence of what-is. entre into the notion of the work of the social as art
occurs at the point where Englands text leaves off.
Heidegger maintains that in order to free ourselves from
There is something very important at stake in this
the alienating influence of productionist technology and
historicisation of production for Heidegger in that it
to recover our rootedness in the world, we must
provides the basis for an evaluative critique of the
cultivate a mode of attunement,4 which he calls a
technological worldview as inauthentic. A key task for
releasement toward things. To be released toward a
Heidegger was to contrast inauthentic with authentic
thing is to attend to it as the particular thing that it is,
worldviews, and to privilege the latter as an authentic
rather than as a substitute for some other thing that
mode of working and producing that would provide an
would serve the same function. Towards the end of The
alternative to what he described as Greek productionist
Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger leaves us
metaphysics. As Zimmerman (1990) explains, In
with the tantalising suggestion that a saving power lies
Heideggers view, the attentive activity of letting things
concealed in this dangerous moment of Western
be was not work as it is known under productionist
modernity in the de-aestheticisation of art. It is in the
metaphysics; but instead the essence of art (p. xvi). A
nature of the work of art to illuminate and bring the
new non-technological worldview would be possible only
concealed into view through its relation to the earth:
if humanity were enabled to produce a work of art that
In setting up a world, the (art) work sets forth would restore meaning to the things that had been made
the earth. This setting forth must be thought here in meaningless in the technological era (Zimmerman,
the strictest sense of the word. The artwork moves the 1990). Thus, for such a Heideggerian perspective it is
earth itself into an open region of a world and keeps not so much that the artist is a special kind of person,
it there. The work lets the earth be earth (Heidegger, but rather that each person is a special kind of artist.
1971: 171).
Thus, against the backdrop of a great Greek temple, a Art, truth and event as radical agonistics
mountain is set forth just as a mountain, and not simply
In this final section we consider how the idea that each
as a land mass that needs be crossed or overcome, i.e.
person is a special kind of artist is relevant to social
that exists for some instrumental purpose. The mountain
must be appreciated in itself. Modern technology no
longer permits nature to show itself. Instead the 5 In Heideggers (1971) description of the van Gogh painting
of the peasant womans shoes, he wishes to show how the
dominance of calculative reason tends toward processing peasant woman toiling in the field reveals how the shoes
and consuming and controlling nature rather than bring soil and world into a relation that establishes the
peasant woman within a historical place: From the dark
opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread
4 The concern here is with possibilities of understanding of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of
immanence in the work of art. Attunement as a mode of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge
enframing brought forth via speculative penetration into the through the far-spreading and ever-uniform furrows of the
formlessness of the work, with the effect of becoming a field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lies the dampness
disclosive or uncovering event for the hermeneutic practitioner and richness of the soil. Under the sole slides the loneliness
(see Stambovsky, 2004). of the field path as the evening falls (pp. 3334).

2008 The Author(s)

190 Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare
Social work as art revisited

work. We will concentrate on how the work of the subset of the set named situation. Such is the rigour of
social can be characterised in terms of art and, as a the ontological requirement of immanence. We could
matter of course, shift the sole emphasis away from the say that truth is included in that which it is the truth of.
intuitively plausible account of art as a subjective
composition for the worker. This means that our focus In other words, truth is part of experience and not
is not so much on an interior aesthetic process of something beyond it. In constructing this subtractive
individual creativity, but rather on the particular ontology of truth, Badious goal is best described as the
consequences of certain concrete events within the attempt to reveal and make sense of the potential for
work of the social. Following Heidegger, this will profound, transformative innovation in any situation.
require us to seek out and isolate the precise Every such innovation can only begin with some sort
consequences of an encounter with art as an event in of exceptional though invariably ephemeral break
social work. In short, we need to devise a sustainable with the status quo; it begins with what Badiou refers
answer to the question: What is arts work in social to as an event which reconfigures the present, i.e.
work? In order to sustain this move, we need to which takes something away from our existing
supplement our earlier reading of phenomenology, with understanding of the situation. For example, in his
Heidegger as its principle exponent, with the more transformative theory of politics, Badiou argues that
recent but largely sympathetic writings of the French politics must be subtracted from the State (Barker,
social theorist, Alain Badiou. This will permit us to not 2002: 83). As they reveal themselves they will take
only reconstruct prevailing conceptions of art in social away something from the current knowledge we have
work but to also push forward in developing an of the State. At another level, if your partner tells you
affirmative agonistics of social work in lieu of the arts he is going to take the dog out for a walk, and then
work. It will also allow us to set this aesthetic later that day tells you I am having an affair and will
conception of social work against the perverse and be leaving you, these two different events laid side-
inauthentic forms of calculative reason that have come by-side dramatically reveal the power of truth such that
to dominate much of social work. things will never be the same again. The truth takes
As a lover of truth, Badiou (2006) declares a return something away from that which you thought you had
to truth in politics and philosophy (p. 121). Unlike or possessed. It changes your view of love. Thus, in his
many of his contemporary French postmodernists, major work to date LEtre et lvnement, Badiou
Badiou positively endorses and expounds a concept of (1988) explains in detail that:
universal truth. He finds truth in events artistic,
truths are militant processes which, beginning from
scientific, political and amorous events. As Barker
a specific time and place within a situation, pursue
(2002: 83) says, For Badiou, truth is the ultimate aim
the step-by-step transformation of that situation in
of philosophy, whose conditions once met, liberate
line with new forms of broadly egalitarian principles.
philosophy from itself. But Badious is a very different
Only a pure commitment, one detached from any
theory of truth from those we have grown accustomed
psychological, social or objective mediation, can
to in the writings of Kant, Nietzsche and Hegel. It is
qualify as the adequate vehicle for a truth, but
an opposite position to the fashionable postmodernist
reciprocally, only a properly universal truth qualifies
and historicist relativist theories of truth. The
as worthy of such a commitment. Only a truth can
originality and radicalism of Badiou rests on what is
induce the subject of a genuine commitment (http://
called his subtractive ontology of truth thesis.
Badiou (2006) insists that truth is not an abstract,
sovereign or transcendent phenomenon, but part of the Badiou (1998) casts truth in terms of exceptional
givenness of experience, proceeding as it does from events, intense moments, rare and fragile experiences
within experience as a singular figure of immanence. that lead to a form of commitment and attunement with
Truth is generic and infinite; it is not given as the secret the world. He shows how truth can be a collective as
of depth or intimate essence, as Freud would have us well as a singular experience. Ultimately, his concern is
believe. Rather, drawing on his expertise in mathematical to forge a political philosophy of sameness and equality
set theory, Badiou (2006: 124125) explains: over and against current preoccupations with difference
and identity. A collective takes shape in response to a
There can be only truth of the situation wherein truth radical break with the status quo and is defined as a
insists, because nothing transcendent to the situation political event if the subject of this event is collective,
is given to us. Truth is not a guarantor for the and if this is a singular collective practice estranged
apprehension of something transcendent to the from the state. A starving population or a people facing
situation. Since a situation, grasped in its pure being, genocide know the meaning of collective truth.
is only ever a particular multiple, this means that a For Badiou, like truth, all artistic truth is initiated by
truth is only ever a sub multiple of that multiple, a an event and is sustained by a subject. Following

2008 The Author(s)

Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 191
Gray & Webb

Foucault, Badiou thinks that subjectivity is an effect of of evidence-based practice (see Webb, 2006: 144168).
events. Art, as distinct from calculative worldviews, is The arts work in social work extends beyond the formal
an engagement in which sensual experience audible, and normative aspects of existing regulatory practices.
visual, verbal, olfactory and tactile is put into form. Art is without mediation, and as will become clear,
Hallward (2003: 195) explains: either through lack or excess, it performs as a radical
mode of subtraction from these formal and normative
The evental site in an artistic situation always lies on
the edge of what is perceived, in that situation, as the
The formalisation of the arts work in social work
void of form. Artistic events take place on the border
rests on the proximal relationship between social
of what is formless, joyful or monstrous, the point
worker and client as a process, duration or setting of a
at which the formal resources of the existing arts are
performative scene. Badiou calls it a sustainable scene
of the staging of the Two. This staging of a relationship
The arts work is a subtractive intense event or series between social worker and client is alwaysalready,
of events that is disruptive, incommensurable and inherently pregnant with possibilities of truth. This
contingent. It is likely to be derived from an means that Truth is already included in that which
improvisation, whereby all past experience, knowledge it is the truth of. Here is our strong claim for an
of rules and procedural thinking do not suffice to alternative conception of this staging of event between
predict or produce an outcome. Art brings forth that social worker and client. The event is not a repetition,
which is novel rather than the repetition of past or description or characterisation of what exists, but
habitual unproductive modes of calculative thinking. It instead a momentary pause in which participants invent
is transformative in the sense that it manifests itself or imagine what has not yet taken place. They invent
continually anew, and, in keeping with this, social work new possibilities. It is the leap of faith of the decision,
as art can never be a closed system. In a fundamental as Derrida (1995) refers to this process, whereby the
sense it is the art and not the social worker that social worker and client show commitment to the
assembles what is practice, that provides bounds and ongoing and durable salience of their relationship, but
lets everything stand in relation to everything else. make the immanence of truth stand forth as intense
The arts work in social work is not imbued within moments that initially subtract but resolve as enduring
the routine, mundane or the ordinary. Neither can it be and preservative Truths. Clients and most of us can
found within the prescribed, codified or regulated fields recount in vivid detail a moment when some new
of administrative practice. There is nothing task-centred insight that had lasting impact was reached. The leap
about it. You will not find it in policy guidelines, does not aim at mediation since this merely confirms
manuals, computer databases, case notes, team meetings the void of the situation rather than its pregnant
or conference reviews. On the contrary, the social possibilities, or else it seeks to restore a normative
worker will recognise that the arts work does not figure condition and the status quo of untruth, i.e. it leaves
among a variant range of potential outcomes. The truth things as they were. More radically, it is the in-potentia
of art cannot be predicted, calculated or prescribed. It of the opening, or potential take-off point for the arts
is always surprising, disruptive and often the result of work, which connects positively to this revelation of the
an accidental event. It cannot be grasped through void of the situation, the immanence of that within it.
purposive action alone. Such purposive reason traps and The arts work must wrest and agonise in order to bring
blinds social work into a mode of thought that insists forth the authentic, and that which is to be preserved.
on grasping reality through one-dimensional instrumental This requires fidelity on the part of the social worker
rationality. The truth of art often begins with the client configuration to discern in a situation any
involuntary and resonates as something to be undergone multiples of possibility and proactively regroup
rather than something that is guided or imposed. And connections and disconnections to the event, whether
it cannot be communicated explicitly; it is revealed in real or anticipated. The fidelity procedures task is
the gaps, the rifts, the dislocations, inconsistencies and to decide, in each case, whether and to what extent
incoherence of what is said or remembered as what was in relation to the horizon of possibilities, the
said. To paraphrase Hallward (2003: 204), the composition intersubjective social workerclient is faithful to the
of art as work comprises the talents, actions and event or not. The fidelity procedure, as an element of
qualities of the social worker, which are indistinguishable social work intervention, thus inevitably invokes truth
from the process and the context the relationship and draws up a repertoire of virtues and vices, whose
within which the work happens, the situation in which terms are included in a situation, and those that are
it is imbedded, personal, professional and social excluded. As Barker (2002: 85) explains, Fidelity
expectations or norms, and so on. This complex stands for degrees of relative autonomy. But crucially,
composition whereby one arrives at the art is diametrically following Badiou, the main task of an exclusively
opposed to technologies of care and decisionist forms affirmative social work as art is the effort to render

2008 The Author(s)

192 Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare
Social work as art revisited

visible all that which, from the perspective of the Goldstein H (1997). The ironies and art of psychotherapy: A call
establishment, the government, the State, is invisible or for the humanities. Reflections 3: 2133.
Goldstein H (1999a). The Arts and Ironies of Understanding.
non-existent. As we say in narrative therapy, together Unpublished manuscript.
the client and worker rewrite the story. The arts work Goldstein H (1999b). The limits and art of understanding in
does not only open up in disclosing a radical alterity, social work practice. Families in Society 80: 385395.
or making visible that which has been previously closed Gray M (2002). Art, irony and ambiguity: Howard Goldstein and
his contribution to social work. Qualitative Social Work 1:
down or excluded, but it also endures as a new narrative 413 433.
(Goldstein, 1999a). As Heidegger argues, the arts work Gray M, Askeland G (2002). Social work as art: Counterbalancing
preserves the authentic. It establishes itself in the open, the tick infestation in social work. Paper presented at the
IASSW Conference, Montpellier, 1518 July.
whereby the intense moment of truth as in-potentia Hallward P (2003). Badiou: A Subject of Truth. Minneapolis,
becomes a durable and lasting monument. For us, University of Minnesota Press.
however, the burning question remains as to whether Heidegger M (1930). The Essence of Truth: On Platos Cave
social work will ever experience a collective political Allegory and Theaetetus. Translated by Ted Sadler. Continuum
International Publishing, London.
moment of truth, which endures and shines forth. Heidegger M (1971). The Origin of the Work of Art, in Poetry,
Perhaps, for now, we can at least hope for in the Language, Thought. New York, Harper and Row Publishers.
Blochian sense a fuller engagement with the arts Heidegger M (1997). The Question Concerning Technology.
work in the social.6 New York, Harper and Row Publishers.
Moi S (2006). Perplexity and Passion in Heidegger: A Study
in the Continuity of his Thought. Gnosis 8: 1423. Available
References at:
vol_viii/Moi.pdf [date last accessed: 16th November 2006].
Badiou A (1988). LEtre et lEvnement. Seuil, Paris, Lordre Noddings N (2003). Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and
philosophique. Moral Education , 2nd edn. Berkeley, University of California
Badiou A (1998). Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. Press.
Stanford, Stanford University Press. Owsley R (2002). Heidegger and German Expressionism.
Badiou A (2005). Being and Event. New York, Continuum Available at: [date
Publishers. last accessed: 12th December 2006].
Badiou A (2006). Theoretical Writings. New York, Continuum Rapaport H (1997). Is There Truth in Art? Ithaca, Cornell
Publishers. University Press.
Barker J (2002). Alain Badiou: A Critical Introduction. London, Rickman HP (1967). Understanding and the Human Studies .
Pluto Press. London, Heinemann Educational.
Bey H (1994). Immediatism. San Francisco, AK Press. Robb G (2000). Rimbaud. London, Picador.
Bloch E (1995). The Principle of Hope . Massachusetts, MIT Semetsky I (2006). Deleuze, Education and Becoming .
Press. Rotterdam, Sense Publishers.
Camilleri P (1999). Social Work and its search for meaning. In: Siporin M (1988). Clinical social work as an art form. Social
Pease B, Fook J, eds. Transforming Social Work Practice. Casework 69: 177183.
London, Routledge. Sokolowski R (2000). Husserl and the Phenomenological
Derrida J (1995). The Gift of Death. Chicago, University of Tradition. Washington, Catholic University of America Press.
Chicago Press. Spiegelberg E (1981). The Phenomenological Movement: A
England H (1986). Social Work as Art: Making Sense for Good Historical Introduction. Netherlands, Dordrecht.
Practice. London, Allen and Unwin. Spinelli E (1989). The Interpreted World: An Introduction to
Ferguson H (2001). Social work, individualization and life Phenomenological Psychology. London, Sage.
politics. British Journal of Social Work 31: 4155. Stambovsky P (2004). Philosophical Conceptualization and
Finlayson G (2003). Adorno: Modern Art, Metaphysics and Literary Art. Madison, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
Radical Evil. Modernism/modernity 10: 7195. Tieszen R (2005). Phenomenology, Logic, and the Philosophy of
Forte A (1960). Bartoks Serial Composition. The Musical Mathematics. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Quarterly, Special Issue: Problems of Modern Music. The Timms N, Timms R (1977). Perspectives in Social Work.
Princeton Seminar in Advanced Musical Studies , 46: 233 London, Routledge and Kegan Paul.
245. Webb SA (2006). Social Work in a Risk Society . London,
Goldstein H (1987). The neglected moral link in social work Palgrave Macmillan.
practice. Social Work 32: 181187. Wilde O (1891). The Soul of Man under Socialism. In: The
Goldstein H (1990). The knowledge base of social work Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, Volume 1, Poems and Poems
practice: Theory, wisdom, analogue or art? Families in in Prose. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Society 71: 32 42. Young J (2001). Heideggers Philosophy of Art. Cambridge,
Goldstein H (1992). If social work hasnt made progress as Cambridge University Press.
a science, might it be an art? Families in Society 73: 48 Zimmerman ME (1990). Heideggers Confrontation with
55. Modernity. Bloomington, Indiana University Press.

6 Here we are referring to Ernest Bloch (1995) and his

monumental book The Principle of Hope where he describes
the world as an open system and charts the human striving
for utopia that runs throughout history. He maintained that
In capitalist society health is the capability to ear n, among
the Greeks it was the capability to enjoy, and in the Middle
Ages the capability to believe (p. 465).

2008 The Author(s)

Journal compilation 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 193