Social work practice in Europe has developed disparately in the context of separate nation states. Yet it has at the level of professional organization a potentially international orientation. Practice can be understood as having a dual configuration: on the one hand it is idiosyncratic to the culture of nation states; on the other it has a dynamic which incorporates an impulse to include broader supranational concerns. This dual configuration is of importance at a time when social work and social policy are increasingly affected by global political and economic processes and compelled to view what were previously national concerns through analysis that is global (cf. Mishra 1999; Deacon et al . 1997; Townsend 1995). Welfare and economic issues are now almost wholly cast in systems that involve a multiplicity of nations, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and regional trading blocs that are intricately involved in making decisions that have profound welfare implications. This article will identify the challenge that these developments pose for social work and consider how the social work profession can reflect on a response. We argue that the dual configuration in which it is situated enmeshes social work within a dual set of politics. The first is the politics of the macro-political economy noted above. The second is the micro-cultural politics of identity that are being played out in various national settings but which also contain global impetuses. Thus both contemporary macro- and micro-politics mitigate against practice and analysis situated solely at the level of the national. We argue that a social work that is central to an emerging social development practice based on empowerment and located within a transnational organizational base is best placed to meet the challenges we describe.