The final strategic option, global social work, is one of the most interesting, and it is one which opens up a range of possible sites for practice. It is also an option which addresses the economics, the politics, and in some instances, the ideas of change. Paradoxically, it is a genre of social work which was once heralded to play a significant role in shaping the profession’s emerging identity in the 20th century. After World War II and under the auspice of the United Nations, social work was positioned as a (if not the) key occupation to undertake social development in the so called ‘developing’ nations. The paradox is that as the modernist western welfare states developed in the nations of what is known in development circles as the global North (Britain, Europe, the USA, and Canada, but which includes white Australia, white New Zealand and white South Africa), social work as a profession seemed to lose interest in (or at least failed to convincingly articulate) its potential role in social development. As those modernist welfare states weaken and are re-constituted into workfare regimes, the possibility re-emerges for social work to play a role in international social work and social development. That said, it must still be acknowledged that the long shadow of the welfare state remains. Organized along national lines and promoted by modernist professionalized and bureaucratized social welfare, the welfare state continues to inhibit the capacity of social work collectively and individually to think internationally and to imagine the full range of possibilities for global practice (for an example of this, see Webb, 2003).
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