In the context of debates about social work’s knowledge base and its essential role this article focuses on how core social work activity might be identified and offers some preliminary suggestions as to what may constitute it. Drawing on a naturally occurring conversation between a social worker and two service users two claims are made. First, that despite concerns with uncertainty in late
modernity, some features of interaction remain inherently certain. These include (1) Materiality, the setting and its participants are taken as real; (2) Identity, participants engage on the basis that they are who they say they are; (3) Taken for granted aspects of social organization; for example, that all participants can hold a conversation until shown otherwise; and, (4) Historicity, referring to a preexisting set of accounts, justifications, reasons and communicative
orderings. Second, these ‘background expectancies’ provide the resource for topic seeking and non-routine practices that may be necessary to social work such as ‘authorized breaching’ of the domestic sphere and private life.