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The Relational Gaze on a Changing Society

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Edited By Paolo Terenzi and Elisabetta Carrà

Relational sociology is coming increasingly to the fore on the international academic stage. As it invariably happens in such circumstances, when a new paradigm attracts a growing number of scholars, researchers and practitioners, it is almost inevitably interpreted and identified in many different ways. This book aims to highlight the specific nature of relational sociology, disseminates knowledge about the relational approach which has been developed in Italy and in Europe starting from the work of Pierpaolo Donati, and confronts this approach with issues which are currently much debated in social theory, social research and social work. The authors try to consolidate the directions taken in the research field in order to distinguish relational sociology from other approaches which are not relational, or are only so to a certain degree.

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The Relational Social Work: Principles and Methods

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1 Introduction

Relational Social Work (RSW) (Folgheraiter 2004, 2007, 2011) is a social work approach that drew its inspiration, direction and scientific foundation from the relational conception of sociology and social policies developed in recent decades by Pierpaolo Donati.

RSW offers a theoretical framework to understand and utilize the dynamic relationship between those helping and those needing help. It uses concepts that are current social work issues, such as power and empowerment, partnership and participation (Adam 2008; Dominelli 2010; Folgheraiter 2014; Featherstone, Morris and White 2014). RSW, drawing on Relational Sociology, locates these concepts within social networks, rather than individual helping relationships – a shift that social work has at times struggled to achieve (Morris and Burford 2007).

In this chapter, sociological basis and key ideas of RSW are briefly illustrated. Then, the role that RSW proposes for practitioners is explained.

2 From relational sociology to Relational Social Work

Relational Sociology (Donati 2011) is a paradigm introduced and developed by Pierpaolo Donati at the beginning of the eighties of the twentieth century (Donati 1983, 1991). The fruitfulness of the relational paradigm is proven, internationally, by the widespread use of various approaches related to the idea of relational understanding of society (Prandini 2015). In particular, the prospect of Donati has won many awards, such as the translation of many works. Recently, there was the publication of Donati and Archer’s volume The Relational Subject (2015).

In three important papers...

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