This article explores whether paradigms for social work that helped structure and focus social work theory in the late 20th century can continue to inform social work theorising in the present day. The question is considered by reviewing the work of Burrell and Morgan (1979), Howe (1987), Whittington and Holland (1985), Johnson et al., 1984 (cited in Rojek, 1986) and Mulally (1993) who offer specific considerations of paradigm frameworks. The main argument developed in the discussion is that while the nature and orientation of theories in paradigms from later 20th to early 21st century are more diverse and complex, the value of a paradigm as framework for theory for practice persists. But for a paradigm framework to hold sway, there are some essential requirements. These include a need to: emphasise more the importance of local context in global conditions; broaden scope of theory away from predisposition to 'Western' dominated ideas; include space for certain constants in social work and recognise the role of critical reflexivity in activating theory. The need for further global and local research studies that systematically test and interrogate the range of social work theories and practices to progress this project is emphasised.