Walter Lorenz - Mentor of a critical European Social Work


  • Günther Friesenhahn
  • Hans-Uwe Otto Bielefeld University
  • Friedrich W. Seibel


In their recently published literature review of international social work (Homfeldt/Schneider 2006) the authors observe that, in Germany, internationalism does not always play the role that it should, given the increasingly global nature of society’s problems and responsibilities. ‘Although in the last ten years educational perspectives have become more international (focusing particularly on Europe), professional discussion is still largely confined to the national level’ (ibid., p. 6). This observation holds true not only for Germany but, in varying degrees, also for other countries, despite international congresses and problem-orientated discussions at European level. On the other hand, reciprocal understanding and openness have grown through comparative analysis, to the benefit of all participants. A growing understanding is now becoming more evident, arising from the need to introduce regulations on a multiplicity of social issues, not all directly to do with social work. With others, Walter Lorenz in particular pushed for this, demanding critical European activity in this field. Of the publications that accompanied this process Walter Lorenz’s ‘Social Work in a Changing Europe’ stands out. It first appeared in 1994 and has since been translated into several other languages. In 2006 came a second theoretically more substantial publication this time with the title ‘Perspectives on European Social Work: From the Birth of the Nation State to the Impact of Globalisation’. In this book he points critically and evocatively to social work’s roots in nation states but shows at the same time that purely national foundations for social policy and social work fail, on their own, to offer viable solutions in increasingly trans-national social arrangements.