Social Constructivism vs. Pragmatism: A Search for a Suitable Social Work Paradigm for Research on Immigrants

Social Constructivism vs. Pragmatism: A Search for a Suitable Social Work Paradigm for Research on Immigrants

Copyright: © 2024 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/979-8-3693-1726-6.ch007
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Migration is one of the most significant areas where we can connect social work research, with an estimated 281 million people living outside of their country of birth in 2020. Given the social work profession's commitment to serving marginalised and disadvantaged populations, it must acknowledge the importance of researching immigrants. The primary problem with immigrant studies is that there are no unified paradigms, and this is a subject of ongoing discussion in social work research. However, a number of paradigms, such as constructivism, post-positivism, participatory action frameworks, pragmatism, etc., frame and construct modern social work research. To determine which paradigm is best for researching immigrants, this chapter primarily examines the paradigms of social constructivism and pragmatism. It concludes that social constructivism is the best paradigm for this type of research.
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There were approximately 281 million people living outside of their country of birth in 2020 [International Organization of Migration (IOM), 2022], and migration is one of the most important areas where we can connect social work research. When individuals move, they frequently experience challenges integrating into host societies, but the growing literature explicitly connects social work research to the question of immigrants. Since the social work profession is dedicated to disadvantaged and marginalised people [International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), 2018], it cannot disregard the significance of studying immigrants. However, the main issue with immigrants study is the lack of unified paradigms that synthesise, generalise, and organise the accumulated knowledge of immigrants' experiences in their new country (De Haas, 2021; Scholten, 2022).

A paradigm is a collection of widely held philosophical (axiological, epistemological, and ontological) beliefs that guide and define the researcher's worldview to comprehend and account for human experience (Abbott et al., 2004; Morris, 2006; Walliman, 2021). It has been found that the emergence of research practices in social work started in the late nineteenth century but it is legit to say that the field does not have its unique paradigm (Povidaichyk et al., 2021; Soifer, 1999). However, there are several paradigms that frame and construct contemporary social work research, including constructivism, post-positivism, participatory action frameworks, and pragmatism, etc. Literature suggests that social constructivism and pragmatism are dominant approaches to studying immigrants. Social constructivism helps to understand people's perspectives on the world, how they experience it, how they think, and the social structures that develop as a result of sharing those perspectives through language and behavior (Dodd & Epstein, 2012; Teater, 2019), while pragmatism believes people's world views can be understood through their actions and there may be multiple truths and realities (Creswell et al., 2011; Kaushik & Walsh, 2019). This chapter aims to find a suitable paradigm to conduct research on immigrants by investigating pragmatism and social constructivism paradigms.

This chapter is divided into two main sections. Firstly, discusses social constructivism and pragmatism concerning migration research. Secondly, it identifies social constructivism as an appropriate paradigm for research on immigrants and explains why social constructivism is the best fit for it. The gap and shortcomings of both paradigms are also discussed throughout the chapter. Finally, the conclusion summarises its main points and focuses especially on how social constructivism can advance research on immigrants.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Push and Pull Factors: A theory developed by Lee (1966) AU44: The in-text citation "Lee (1966)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. and is widely applied in the study of migration. The push-pull theory postulates that population shift is a product of these two driving forces acting in opposing directions and it can be argued that migration is a wise decision made by people to take advantage of opportunities that are lacking in their countries. Push and pull factors can be divided into three categories: social, political, and economic factor.

Acculturation: Results from balancing two cultures while adjusting to the dominant culture of the society, is a process of psychological, social, and cultural transformation. Acculturation is the process through which a person adopts, acquires, and acclimates to an unfamiliar environment because of being introduced to or put inside a different culture.

Immigrants: People who voluntarily depart their home countries in search of new opportunities or to be with family members who have already migrated there.

Arab Spring: A wave of pro-democracy demonstrations and upheavals that began in the regions of the Middle East and North Africa in 2010 and 2011 and that overthrew some of the region's most firmly established authoritarian regimes. The wave started when protests quickly overthrew the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, sparking attempts to do the same in other Arab nations. Not all nations, however, experienced success with the protest movement, and the security forces of those nations frequently responded violently to protesters voicing their political as well as economic complaints.

Immigrants’ Integration: The final stage of migration is the process of integration, which takes time. There is disagreement among academics over whether this is a desirable state or not, with some arguing that nothing approaching an “integrated society” is real. There is no consensus on a single definition of integration because it is still quite context- and nation-specific. The word “integration” in this context refers to the social, economic, and cultural components of immigrants' integration into their new host society, which then requires action to facilitate their adjustment by assimilating its norms and habits. Another approach to characterize it is as a means of mutual adjustment between the migrant community and the host society.

Social Justice: The fair treatment and equal standing of each person and social group. The phrase is also used to describe laws, policies, and other social, political, and economic frameworks that together provide such fairness and equity. It is frequently used in reference to movements that aim to achieve inclusion, self-determination, equity, and other objectives for groups that have historically or currently been marginalized, oppressed, or exploited.

Naturalisation of Citizens: The formal procedure by which a non-citizen of a country obtains citizenship in that nation at birth is known as naturalization. Usually, a request or application is made, and the authorities must approve it. Different countries have different requirements for naturalisation, but typically, they involve swearing allegiance to the country's laws, taking an oath of devotion, and fulfilling certain requirements like having a minimum amount of legal residency and having sufficient knowledge of the prevailing language or culture.

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