Identifying and tackling inequality. A challenge for social work.


  • Benoît Beuret
  • Jean-Michel Bonvin
  • Stephan Dahmen


The value of equality is recognized as a core principle of social work. At an international level, the statement of ethical principles describes social work as a profession which "challenges injustices" and sees principles of "socialjustice"asfundamental.1 Theideathatsocialworkisaboutcombating inequalities generally provokes content among policy administrators and social workers. As stated in T. H. Marshall's (2009/1950) essay on citizenship and class, the development of citizenship in the modern capitalist state was driven by attempts to ground the "principle of the equality of citizens to set against the principle of the inequality of classes" (Marshall 2009, p. 149). For him, the guarantee of social rights included in citizenship is closely connected to the institutions of "education and the social services" (Marshall 2009, p. 148), thus to social work.

This issue raised considerable debate within the discipline of social work over the last thirty years (Brumlik/Keckeisen 1976; Autès 2004; Ferguson 2008; Stehr 2008; Kessl 2009; Lima 2011). Recently, the capability approach - initially developed by Amartya Sen in the context of human development studies - has become an influential frame of reference considered as a possible normative foundation for social work and social policy (Nadai 2013; Otto et al. 2010; Schrödter 2007). The orientation towards a broad conception of human freedom and individual autonomy - so the authors - would make the capability approach an ideal reference framework for social work.






Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Soziale Arbeit / Revue suisse de travail social