2Critical Living Circumstances: Distress, Vulnerability and Neediness

One key term used in German social work is that of Betroffenheit, which means being affected by something in a neutral sense and also being negatively affected, feeling distress. Users of social services are affected by social disadvantage, by situations of violence, by social exclusion and, connected to this, by a lack of resources. The aspect today described as Betroffenheit is what the cultural sociologist Franz Carl Müller-Lyer tried to pinpoint at the start of the twentieth century in his work signally entitled Sociology of Suffering (Soziologie der Leiden). He saw suffering as the “practical central problem of human society” (Müller-Lyer, 1914, p. VII). When it came down ...

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