Social workers tend to take themselves and their activities very seriously, but it is not always easy for those outside the occupation to see why they should do likewise. For many ‘social work’ is a term that combines the dedication and ambiguity of ‘social’ with ordinary, straightforward ‘work’. It seems a necessary, even a worthy task, but not one capable of sustaining much curiosity or requiring careful and imaginative exploration. A common attitude towards social work is represented in one of Kingsley Amis’ characters (in My Enemy’s Enemy), who supposes that social workers are necessary, but wonders if they have to behave ‘like a kind of revivalist military policeman’. Practitioners of social work, on the other hand, have not found it easy to describe their work in ways that are theoretically or imaginatively compelling. This chapter will consider some of the reasons why social work is both so little regarded and so elusive.