Social work and well-being
By Bill Jordan

To see sections of this book in a PDF, please click here.

Never comfortable with the individualism and narrow market mentality of recent times…
Trapped into a false approach to the measurement of human value…

The social and community work professions can now reassert with renewed confidence their contributions to societies that stand for interdependence, justice and an ethic of care… and play key roles in an already emerging potential cultural transformation.

Jordan shows how - in Europe, North America, Australasia - we are at the cusp of this transformation, from societies organised around economic growth and material consumption, to ones concerned with well-being and sustainability. Using practice examples, up-to-date survey evidence, historical analysis, and ideas from several disciplines, his compelling voice adds to those already challenging the assumption that happiness is affected more by people's material circumstances than by their physical and mental health, and their relationships with others.

His unique contribution is to rebut the accusation that refocusing social work on concepts like 'relationships' and 'feelings' threatens loss of intellectual rigour and scientific edge. He shows that even economists have started to call for new approaches to public policy that promote common good and prioritise people's feelings.

His book is a must for any social worker and allied professional wishing to engage with the challenge to shift themselves and service users beyond present-day concerns with material consumption and instrumental outcomes. 'If the new emphasis of government policy is to be more on well-being…then social work has a great deal to offer - but only if it is true to its roots in the primacy of social relationships and emotional truth'.

Paperback. 176 pages. 978-1-905541-13-3. 2007. £17.95.


Introduction: the value of social work
Hidden value
Social work and the interpersonal economy
Service-delivery and the value of practice
Relationships: the history of an idea in social work
Statutory social work and well-being
Constructive social work in public services
Independence and well-being in social care
Community, cohesion, diversity and deprivation
Social reproduction
Accountability and community participation
Harm, stigma and exclusion in communities
Conclusions: social reproduction in a service economy


Bill Jordan
worked in the statutory social services for 20 years, and taught social work for a similar period. He was also an activist in a social movement of poor people. Since 1990, he has divided his time between research, consultancy, teaching and writing, in the UK and several EU states. He is the author of 25 books about social work, social policy, social and political theory.


"Provides some optimism for the future... the current emphasis, by traditionally unsentimental or hard-nosed economists, on the importance of people's well-being sits nicely with social work's "old" emphasis on relationships and feelings. Jordan rebuts the view that the latter are fuzzy concepts lacking in intellectual rigour, instead arguing that they are vital and necessary if social workers are to move themselves and their clients beyond concerns with material consumption and instrumental outcomes… many have never been happy with individualism, free market economics and the dog-eat-dog society... Jordan's work is a welcome antidote." Community Care.

"Read this book... those of us involved in social work education should be recommending it widely… an intelligent and sensitive analysis of some vitally important issues. It also offers a degree of hope… This is an important book." Neil Thompson, writing in Wellbeing.