What is the future of social work?

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Michael Reisch University of Maryland, Baltimore, USA

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During the past three decades, the ascendant neoliberal paradigm has produced an unprecedented centralisation of wealth and power and the institutionalisation of a market-oriented philosophy throughout the world. Its underlying values have transformed the basic tenets of social work practice and undermined the profession’s ethical foundation. It has promoted scientific, empiricist ‘objectivity’ as the principal criterion for respected scholarship and an ahistorical orientation to human problems, and compelled social workers to revise their relationship to the state, the market, service users and the community. In this context, it would be easy to predict a dismal future for social work, as some scholars have done recently. Instead of projecting a dystopian view of social work’s future, however, this article presents a more hopeful alternative. It argues that while social workers must be rigorous in their analysis of emerging societal problems and relentless in their efforts to link these problems to their structural and institutional roots, they must also maintain a sense of possibility based on an awareness of history and appreciation of the collective human capacity to create change.

Michael Reisch University of Maryland, Baltimore, USA

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Critical and Radical Social Work
An international journal