radical social work
radical social worka term denoting attempts in the 1970s to achieve a fundamental reorientation of SOCIAL WORK practice (‘radical’ denotes a concerted attempt to change the status quo). The 1970s saw a loose movement known as radical social work, with its roots in an undifferentiated political left. Its main contention was that social problems, including those habitually addressed by social workers, had their roots in structural inequality, principally social CLASS, and not in personal inadequacy as earlier theory seemed to imply
Key ingredients to radical social work as a method were conscientizatian (in Paolo Freire's sense), the empowerment of clients, the opening up of social work processes to public and indeed client participation, and attempts to make broad political alliances of’progressive’ forces (community groups, client groups, trade unions and political parties). In general, radical social workers perceived ambiguity in the state apparatus to the point that real gains were held to be achievable for the working classes.
Currently, a radical right (see NEW RIGHT) has emerged in social work, stressing individual, family, and to a lesser extent community responsibility for social problems. This has been associated with policy shifts in government, leading to the closing of large institutions for the mentally ill and handicapped, the growth of a private welfare sector, and the recent emphasis on COMMUNITY CARE in welfare provision. Faced with these changes the tendency has been for the radical left in social work to fragment, focusing on narrower, albeit significant, issues, such as RACISM, SEXISM and other aspects of EQUALITY.