Theoretical pathways to the future: Globalization, ict and social work theory and practice

Deborah West, David Heath

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Summary: Society has changed substantially and rapidly with the advent of globalization where technology is both a catalyst for and a response to globalization. Concurrently and connected to these trends has been the advent of neo-liberalism, new managerialism and postmodernism. Globalization, technological change and neo-liberalism underpin and are driven by each other in a continual cycle. This rapidly changing, globally connected and technologically based society is the context for clients and social workers alike. This article explores the connections between globalization, ICT and neo-liberalism. This forms the basis for critical reflection on theories, models and modes of practice in light of the changing context allowing a proactive response to the challenges that face the profession and our clients. Findings: Irrespective of the agency of employment, social workers are faced with challenges that arise out of an ideology of outsourcing, reductionism, speed of response, accountability and cost effectiveness with a decreased value on practice wisdom and holistic approaches. However, many of our theories and models were developed at a time when social structure, political ideology and economic underpinnings were different. As such workers are left being reactive to situations with limited opportunities to influence the core issues. This has contributed to the decreasing role and value of social workers. Application: To remain relevant social work needs to continue to influence systems for the benefit of society while reviewing and updating theories and models to reflect current lifestyles, modes and patterns of communication and the impact of globalization. The Author(s) 2011.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-221
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2011


  • globalization
  • information and communication technologies
  • postmodernism
  • social work
  • theoretical frameworks


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