Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: The Road Not Taken - A History of Radical Social Work in the United States (2001)

The Road Not Taken: A History of Radical Social Work in the United States, by Michael Reisch and Janice Andrews, traces the history of radical social work during the twentieth century. Three factors contributed to its downfall: the blacklisting of social work intellectuals (e.g., Jane Addams, Florence Kelly, Marion Hathaway, Bertha Reynolds) under anti-Communism, the professionalization of social work, the marginalization of social and political action, the rise of conservatism in the 1980s, and the growing emphasis on material wealth and status. This book is an important contribution to social work because future generations of social workers will understand that their previous generations made many sacrifices to openly address social and economic issues that were not mainstream.

I highly recommend this book to all social work students, faculty and practitioners, especially in macro practice. It opened my mind to the truth, the feelings that bothered me ever since I entered graduate study in social work: Why is the field today more clinical-oriented rather than social action-oriented? How did earlier social workers get involved in social movements? What were the consequences of their actions and its effects on national social welfare policy? This book addresses those questions and the decline of radical social work since the 1970s. Nationwide, families' safety nets are gradually disappearing today; social workers should rise up and promote social and economic justice. The voices of the past, who risked their lives and careers against larger forces, shall not be forgotten.

1 comment:

socialjerk said...

Thanks for the recommendation, that looks really interesting. One thing I loved about my social work school was that they were very oriented towards social justice and community organizing. They were also crazy, but you know...no one's perfect.