The guiding question of the following work is the following: In which way, if at all, can we define a framework that allows a comparative view on social professional activity in an international perspective? Going beyond positivist research usually means to look for qualitative standards, however remaining caught by taking individual professions in a national setting from one country for granted and looking from what we know for ‘counterparts’ and/or ‘partners’ in other countries. To avoid the subsequent shortcoming of an underlying ‘professional rigidity’ we face the need of developing a functional perspective, focusing on the societies in which Social Professional Activities (SPA) emerge in their respective particular national patterns.
This means, however, to start by defining ‘the social’ as determining societies in general, looking from there at different national patterns – pragmatically but as well structurally the nation state will be taken as point of reference.
In such a perspective, several current concepts have to be fundamentally questioned as far as the mainstream consensus is concerned. Terms in question are in particular: the social, professions and social problems – this is especially necessary when it comes to developing an international perspective.
Despite the need of looking for a general definition of the social, there is in particular a more specific need for debating the understanding of different strands of activities that are – in the widest sense – captured as social professions, for example social work, community/youth work, nursing and care professions, but as well social management and social action (especially the latter pointing on the problematique of professionalisation in strictu sensu).
International comparative research of social professional activities does not fail (primarily) because of the huge variety of national regimes and regulations. The actual reason is the fundamentally different point of departure, expressing various national traditions of the reasoning on the state – a reasoning being at the end a practical reasoning. In other words, we have to recur on the different national understanding of ‘social contracts’.
This approach allows taking a dialectical perspective in order to revisit the actual character of social professional activities. It is the practical confrontation of the individual with his/her environment that constitutes processes of socialisation.