The power of the social work language is rooted in the very words we social workers use everyday. There is no question, that the language of the social work profession is a limitless lexicon that is miraculously positive in its composition, ability to connect across differences, and illuminating when signaling the relative urgency, scale, and impact of our messages. These messages are the very words and ideas social workers communicate to their peers, clients, patients, and people served by an entire field of study. A study which continues to be misunderstood, underutilized, and undervalued by allied fields and people who can even be benefiting by having access to a social worker and his or her services.
And yet, the language has not been studied closely by the rhetorical sciences and arts in the academy. This is a language which continues to intersect, profoundly, with many intersections of power, privilege, and oppression found within the rhetoric departments of major universities and by language experts across the globe studying and mobilizing language in his or her many endeavors. I highly suspect these are the endeavors of language elitists in English departments, schools with an enriched Rhetoric specialization, and in turn, a willful misrepresentation of the power of social work and its language to destabilize. I am suggesting the very library floor these English departments and language courses are built on will subsume and collapse upon receipt of social work’s contribution to the academic world, language, and rhetoric in modern English and critical theory.
These language experts, so-called rhetoricians and chairs of English departments persist in the same critical inquiry we social workers do in our passion to help. Instead of inquiring into novels, we inquire into the psych social novellas in assessment, treatment planning, data analysis, and community engagement. Our critical skills, inquiry into the very souls of our patients, clinical savvy, is the mobilization of finely tuned, sequenced, prescribed, and sometimes, conversely, totally spontaneous language. Indeed we social workers are experts in language, too. But unlike the rhetoric specialist and English studies assignments, our reading of the text, the corpus, is the body itself of the patients we serve. We social workers are the metaphysical signifier of the helper, caregiver, and ethical high-ground. When connecting with those whom are different than us, or simply to supply the needs when engaging in other pursuits in need of further connection and elaboration to make it clear what is or isn’t at stake.
For social work, everything is at stake, and yet, we social workers have no enemies. Our discipline, our craft, does not need to “other” those great are different, make little our known and unknown enemies, or even disparage those that are critical of us. Our language is wholly heterogeneous and yet, totally equalizing in its power to be the all leveler in what is unjust, uncertain, and misrepresentative of what is, and what is not something to be feared. With the social workers that speak of concern, categorize it, and identify and mark the very strengths to focus on to minimize risk, and the likelihood and success of our clients is visible and clear as day to anyone that use our language. This is a language that is nuanced, and enmeshed into the very physics of speech and the words social workers do sublimely choose when intervening in the world of those who continue to put limits to its system of signification.
These systems, the very composition we social workers pass through and disempower is the same lens rhetoric language experts use in their halls of study in academy, the arts, sciences, and other fields of so called critical inquiry. These people that can do and succeed in spite of the department chairs of English departments, and any person who uses language for evil and sadistic purposes, and the prodigies of today’s social work and its advancement among the professions. There is no question our ethical code sits at the very apex of justice, hope, and good will with the many disciplines we work alongside in our professional pursuits. And yet, our contribution in the world of rhetoric, and the rhetorical sciences goes unrecognized and minimized by others who use language for much less urgent, and critical inquiries.
We social workers are the true masters of metaphor. The same artfully spontaneous and yet mechanically predictability social work researchers strive for in their pursuits academics, linguists, and language experts also hope to capture in their writing. This writing, the case studies, patient records, and assessments we social workers aim to master in our clinical language, academics, and other field with a highly specialized language claim is the very proof in their credence and right to be called its own discipline. As social workers, our language, communicates its own justification and supremacy in any specialization we practitioners choose to work or study.
Indeed, any rhetorical device is within our grasp during social work interventions, and skills which reach beyond the classroom, a podium, and your neighborhood or mine. These are skills which have a deep breath of understanding of all the rules of so called higher language. It cannot be more clear where the metaphysical origin of praxis and its truth live if not for the pages of social work research, and our further inquiry into justice, and all higher education, which seeks to disrupt oppression, power and those which service the purposes of rhetoric without bounds. Our discipline knows only the bounds and the limits of rhetoric, the gate-keepers which continue to make good intentions bad, and heroism into something evil with even worse intentions.
This is research based on the platonic ideals that there is no good use but instead, only misuse of biases, judgements, and truly critical inquiry. This is the other side, face, of critical theory when rhetoric has no reigns. This is why the social work language must fully subsumed if rhetoric and rhetorical studies are to ever be checked. Until then, fear, lawless ethical stances, and valueless beliefs will never cripple the aspirations of social work, its people, or those that call themselves helpers in a world where helping is obsolete and justice is turned on its head.
For social work research, the pursuit of the highest high ground in academic, moral, and ethical belief in the chronicles of higher education and academic affairs must be nurtured, praised, and celebrated among the disciplines. Alas, the professional schools of universities, media, and the social apparatuses which can continue to benefit from forward idealism and other schools of forward thinking which are beginning to understand what is becoming totally clear among leaders in the English world. That, above all, these trends emerging in most effective uses of rhetoric and those which operate language at its deepest, most insidious level, chiefly, at the vast reaches and pits which continue intersect language and its rhetorical written and spoken companion. There is profound growing respect for social workers and the language we use.