Gordon versus the working definition: Lessons from a classic critique

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The author critiques Gordon's influential analysis of the National Association of Social Workers'working definition of social work practice (WD). Gordon's critique contains well-founded objections leading to the elimination of the WD's method, purpose, and sanction components. However, Gordon's implied conclusion that social work can be defined by a broad value (i.e., self-realization) and a distinctive knowledge domain (i.e., social transactions) involves fundamental errors repeated in subsequent definitional attempts. Rather than being distinguished by a unique knowledge domain, social work, like other professions, must be defined by a value that is distinctive of the profession yet shared by all social work fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)284-298
Number of pages15
JournalResearch on Social Work Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2003


  • Conceptual foundations
  • Definition
  • Knowledge base
  • Social work
  • Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Gordon versus the working definition: Lessons from a classic critique'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this