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Home > Arhiva > 2014 > Numar: 4 > Recent Evolutions in Social Work in the Context of Development Paradigms: Untangling the Link Between Social Work and Development

 Recent Evolutions in Social Work in the Context of Development Paradigms: Untangling the Link Between Social Work and Development

  • Daniela Gaba (University of Bucharest, Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, 9 Schitu Măgureanu Street, District 5, Bucharest, Romania, phone: +40735659399, E-mail:

This article’s main concern is with understanding the recent evolutions in social work as a result of its interdisciplinary blending with development theory. It starts by offering a brief overview of the evolution of development theory, more precisely its main paradigms (i.e. the modernization and the dependency paradigms) and their implications for social welfare and social policy. Although the bulk of theories emerged in the field of development in the wake of the Second World War had the implicit responsibility to foster social welfare, it wasn’t until the 1970s-1980s that a clear link between development and social welfare has become explicit in development theory (Midgley, 1984). This shift in the approach of the link between development and social welfare and social work has been the advent of a new social welfare-centered paradigm in development, one that takes away the focus on mere economic growth and places it on human capabilities, human rights and sustainability. Social welfare theory has responded to this paradigm shift in development by proposing a social development approach of its own, i.e. developmental social welfare and social work, and South Africa became the first nation to explicitly adopt it in its national social welfare system. Drawing on the broad body of theories and practice surrounding social work’s increasing engagement in development and on the recent experiences of South Africa, in the last part of the article the viability of developmental social welfare and its prospects for social work are discussed. Evidence suggests that there is a gap between policy and practice, between welfare provisions and social work, and that this gap is due to the tension between the developmental perspective and neoliberal thinking and policy.

Keywords: social work, development, development theory, social welfare, developmental social work