ABSTRACT, This paper takes seriously Mao's epigram to tackle two important and interrelated themes. First, it looks at the extent to which practice in one helping profession (social work) may be said to be informed by theory. Indeed, Mao's statement that 'knowledge begins with practice' turns out to be a useful way of grasping the relationship between ideas and action. Second, knowledge gained from practice is returned to practice. Habermas's process of reconstruction used in the analysis to tie theory to practice is employed in the development of a conception of 'public knowledge' to increase professional accountability.

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