Reinventing Social Work. Reflections on the Metaphysics of Social Practice

Author: Mohan, Brij
The main purpose of this book is to educate both faculty and students about the nature and paradox of contemporary social practice – dynamics of diversity, discourse and development. A strategic rethinking is therefore in order to see that knowledge, resources and opportunities are not lost in vain. The point of this work is meaningful, enduring resolution of human alienation and social misery. The analyses proffered here seek a unified response to uplift the human condition (at the expense of fragmented approaches and ineffective social interventions). A new theory of social work is one of the intended outcomes of this study.


“Professor Brij Mohan is unquestionably one of the most prodigious scholars in the field of social work and social welfare that I have seen in my academic career … He grew up in a less developed country, and lives in a developed country (which has many areas that are noticeably “less developed”). He is a man that is originally from the East, and now lives in the West. I find that people are generally not aware of just how difficult a process this is. By living in two worlds he has incorporated some of the best thinking of the East and West, and in so doing has developed some creative, pioneering and sagacious thinking on social welfare policy and on the human condition.

In this book, Professor Mohan remarks that this marks a “decade long reflection and critique of my work and its environment.” Social Work as a profession, he states, “may still offer a redemptive opportunity…” For Brij Mohan, Social Work has been a long-time fascination, a relationship built on high expectations of such a (seemingly, at first glance) prophetic, ministerial calling. The expectations are high, which of course means that the actual performance or carrying out of the Social Work enterprise will inevitably not measure up. This is frustrating, to be sure. Social Work is such a noble calling, but the warts and blemishes are bound to diminish the luster of that noble calling. Still, idealist that he is, he challenges Social Work to go forth, to meet the lofty goals it has set for itself. Brij Mohan is undeterred in his high hopes for Social Work, despite everything. As a passionate, lifelong advocate of social equality and social justice, he avers that a Social Work that loses its commitment to these principles is a Social Work that has lost its mission, its purpose, its raison d’être. His fascination with the philosophy of knowledge, with epistemology, parallels that of Michel Foucault (1926-1984), who argued that power is employed through language, discourse, knowledge, to exert order and most importantly control over people. As a man of both East and West, he has seen examples of this in many countries and societies. He grew up in a country occupied by another country, he grew up listening to the clarion call of Marxism-Leninism echoing throughout the world. The calls for a Marxist classless society were of course never realized. All of these ideologies and ways of thinking, to name only a very few, influenced his thinking and the development of his ideas … Brij Mohan states that he hopes that “future generations will find this book useful in their own search for the meanings of social practice, its theoretical underpinnings and applications.” Present and future generations will find this book fulfilling that purpose, and as well his other works.”– (from the Foreword) Thomas D. Watts, Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, The University of Texas at Arlington

“The profession of social work does not deserve such a thoughtful treatment of its practice as provided by Professor Mohan.… His treatment is profound, unique and long overdue, restoring to the discourse of social welfare practice the underlying considerations that are requisite for understanding social work. The field’s academics need this work as reference and guide; its students need to understand the meaning of their professional choices.” – Professor William Epstein, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

“In this brilliant volume, Professor Mohan continues with his philosophical reflection and critique on the nature and paradox of contemporary social work practice and its increasing dissonance with its espoused quest for social justice and equality. Despite a century of debates and self-reflection, social work has not yet overcome its otherness, and is still striving to establish respectability in the hierarchy of professions through mimicking the style and method of natural sciences. Professor Mohan endeavors to demystify this pretentious stance through the use of a critical-analytical approach grounded in interdisciplinary discourse. He forcefully and compassionately calls for the creation of a new social work which sees humankind’s problems in a broader, holistic context and one which is enshrined in the age-old virtues of justice, equality and civility. This book will stand as a landmark in social work’s quest for mission and identity and will be of great interest to all who are committed to the destined goal of human emancipation and social transformation.” – Angelina W.K. Yuen-Tsang, Professor and Head, Department of Applied Social Science, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

“This prolific author has produced another book that makes a significant contribution to the body of knowledge in social education and practice. It merits the serious attention and in-depth study of everyone who is interested in the social work profession and concerned with its status at the current time.” – Frank B. Raymond, Distinguished Dean and Professor Emeritus, Director of International Programs, College of Social Work, University of South Carolina

“This work represents a very important contribution to rethink Social Work in the new century. Social workers in Brazil will be identified with his questioning about the “triumph of global capitalism at the expense of a socially liberating egalitarian perspective”. In Latin America, specially in Brazil, since the 60’, we have been developing a critical discussion about Social Work, realizing that the profession was promoting and perpetuating a culture of inequality, while in ideology and ethics it was maintaining an egalitarian character. Since then, Social Work in Brazil has been emphasizing the necessary social transformation to guarantee the end of oppression, social misery and human alienation. So, this work is timely since it discusses the need of a reflection about our profession and proposing, in a provoking way, a reinvention of Social Work.” – Ana Cristina Vieira, University of Pernambuco, Brazil

“This is a brilliantly written book on the philosophy of social work not seen before. The book provides an unsurpassable and uninhibited account of social work as a profession: where it has been, where it is going and what it should be. It is a compelling read and more deeply, it presents a profound synthesis of social thought and philosophy as practice.” – Professor Vijay P. Singh, Louisiana State University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Thomas D. Watts
Part I. Philosophically Challenged
1. Practice Philosophically
2. Rethinking Social Work
3. Culture, Cure and Chaos
4. The Other Profession
Part II. The Metaphysics of Social Practice
5. The Age of Evil
6. The Rise and Fall of Social Practice: Epistemologies of Change
7. Universalization of Knowledge
8. Unification of Social Work
Epilogue: Toward A New Social Work