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Social Movements  

Michael Reisch

Since the 19th century, social movements have provided U.S. social work with its intellectual and theoretical foundations and many of its leaders. Social workers played leadership roles in the Progressive movement and have made important contributions to the labor, feminist, civil rights, welfare rights, and peace movements for over a century. Since the 1960s, social workers have also been active in New Social Movements, although not to the same extent as in the past. These movements have focused on issues of identity, self-esteem, human rights, and the development of oppositional critical consciousness. Social workers have also been involved in international movements that have emerged in response to economic globalization, environmental degradation, and major population shifts, including mass immigration. More recently in the United States, social workers have played a supportive role in the transnational Occupy Wall Street movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, the #MeToo movement, and organized efforts to establish marriage equality, protect immigrants and refugees, promote the rights of transgender persons, and advocate for environmental justice.