A1 Journal article (refereed)
What enables ‘real social work’ in adult social work? : Examining mechanism-based explanations (2024)

Kivipelto, M., & Matthies, A.-L. (2024). What enables ‘real social work’ in adult social work? : Examining mechanism-based explanations. European Social Work Research, 2(1), 53-68. https://doi.org/10.1332/27551768y2024d000000009

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsKivipelto, Minna; Matthies, Aila-Leena

Journal or seriesEuropean Social Work Research



Publication year2024


Issue number1

Pages range53-68

PublisherPolicy Press

Publication countryUnited Kingdom

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessOpenly available

Publication channel open accessPartially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/94279


The enduring contradiction between managerialism and professional social work has been a central focus of social work research for decades. This article explores the feasibility of implementing the original values and ideals of social work in the face of the pervasive managerialism brought about by New Public Management, which has infiltrated nearly every sector of society. Utilising qualitative research conducted within adult social work on local public welfare agencies, we investigate the mechanisms that enable social workers to align with their ideal professional goals, referred to here as ‘real social work’, as outlined by social workers themselves. Our analysis, grounded in critical realism and the associated theoretical-methodological framework of CAIMeR theory, revealed five key mechanisms that facilitated real social work: the role-taking mechanism, the response mechanism, the organisational autonomy and responsibility mechanism, the collective attraction and cohesion mechanism, and the critical consciousness mechanism. Our findings suggest the need for further investigation of these mechanisms that empower social workers to resist managerialism and implement real social work in their daily work. This study advocates for prioritising professional aspirations and offers insights for advancing discussions in the realm of adult social work.

Keywordssocial workadult social workcritical realism

Free keywordsprofessional social work; adult social work; critical realism; CAIMeR theory; mechanism-based explanations

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Related projects

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2024

Preliminary JUFO rating0

Last updated on 2024-19-06 at 14:22