Since the beginning of the profession, progressive social work has been characterized by a lived commitment to practice dedicated to advancing human rights and social and economic justice. Since the mid-1980s, the rise of global capitalism has vitiated support for robust social welfare programs and has had a conservatizing effect on the profession, rendering the progressive agenda both more urgent and more difficult. Since the economic crisis of 2008, with a rise in people suffering, while at the same time those programs that would help ease that suffering have been cut back, further perpetuating the myth that austerity is the cure for the disease that it has caused. Progressive social work has responded to both challenges with innovation and energy, but theoretical and practical conundrums remain. This article is offered as an effort to discuss and define progressive social work and its connection to social work values with the hope of contributing to advancing social work practice that addresses social injustices and human rights violations.
Rosemary Barbera, Mary Bricker-Jenkins, and Barbara Hunter-Randall Joseph
Since the Progressive Era, social workers have played important roles in political struggles for social justice. They have criticized, designed, and implemented an array of social policies and have increasingly campaigned for and held political office. Even so, there has been considerable ambivalence within the profession about the extent to which social workers should engage in political action. A major challenge facing the profession during this century will be to ensure that social work students and practitioners understand the impact of political processes on their own and their clients' lives and develop the skills to identify which forms of political intervention are effective for different goals and contexts.
The soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as large numbers of nonwounded soldiers, experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Further, the families, groups, and communities from which all U.S. service men and women come, during and after these and other wars, have experienced their own war-related trauma. Stories on the nightly news reveal soldier reaction to combat stress, including intrusive memories, racing thoughts, nightmares, troubled sleep, irritability, anxiety, fear, isolation, depression anger, poor concentration, hyper- or hypovigilance, exaggerated responses, and increased alcohol and other drug abuse. The stories of family, friends, and community are filled with war stress symptoms of their own. Charged with keeping their families together, bills paid, jobs afloat, children safe and growing, families may experience a drop in income, loneliness and isolation, long deployments, multiple last minute combat redeployment and duty extensions, anger, frustration, depression, increased alcohol and other drug abuse, loss of trust, fear, increase in domestic violence, and school disruption. Not all of the change for family is negative as some spouses and children who are left behind find they have new skills and new independence with which to negotiate their world. The returning soldier's response to this newfound independence and skill may require the services of the clinical social worker.