Political ideologies shape public policy debates as well as the social policy strategies developed to address social problems. The clashes among these long-standing political traditions—conservatism, liberalism, radicalism—reflect fundamental and often irreconcilable differences regarding social, economic, and political life. Ideology also shapes theories of racial and gender inequality. These ideological perspectives and theories are compared for their views on several core issues that underpin social welfare provision, including human nature, need, the general welfare, social problems, and the role of government. The resulting distinctions provide social workers with a framework to more effectively assess contemporary social welfare policies.
Richard Morris Titmuss (1907–1973) was a scholar, administrator, and educator who developed the subject area of social policy and administration as an intellectually respectable field of inquiry. He was chair of Social Administration at the London School of Economics.
Karen Lyons and Nathalie Huegler
The term social exclusion achieved widespread use in Europe from the late twentieth century. Its value as a concept that is different from poverty, with universal relevance, has since been debated. It is used in Western literature about international development, and some authors have linked it to the notion of capabilities. However, it is not widely used in the social work vocabulary. Conversely, the notion of social inclusion has gained in usage and application. This links with values that underlie promotion of empowerment and participation, whether of individuals, groups, or communities. Both terms are inextricably linked to the realities of inequalities within and between societies and to the principles of human rights and social justice that feature in the international definition of social work.
Melissa B. Littlefield, Denise McLane-Davison, and Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi
Mechanisms of oppression that serve to subordinate the strengths, knowledge, experiences, and needs of women in families, communities, and societies to those of men are at the root of gender inequality. Grounded in the strengths perspective of social work, the basic premise of the present discussion emphasizes gender equality as opposed to inequality. At the core of gender equality is the value of womanhood and the need to ensure the health and well-being of women and girls. Women’s participation in different societal domains including economic opportunities, political empowerment, educational attainment, health, and well-being are all impacted by their roles. Thus, structural weaknesses are major barriers for reforming efforts on global gender equality. Challenging traditional notions of gender, which is defined as behavioral, cultural, and social characteristics that are linked to womanhood or manhood, is the basis for achieving gender equality by attending to how these characteristics govern the relationship between women and men and the power differences that impact choices and agency to choose. Further, both equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are imperative for achieving gender equality among women and girls. Although progress has been made toward gender equality for many women, lower income women—as well as women who face social exclusion stemming from their caste, disability, location, ethnicity, and sexual orientation––have not experienced improvements in gender equality to the same extent as other women. Broad outcomes of gender equality around the globe include decreased poverty, increased social and economic justice, and better well-being and empowerment among men and women. Gender equality is a smart tool for economic development because it can remove barriers to access and enhance productivity gains in a competitive world.
Gender hierarchy is the most pervasive source of inequality in the world. In view of the commitment of social work to the goal of justice, redressing the consequences of inequality among the most disenfranchised should be at the core of professional intervention. Rather than discussing the merits of specific types of practice intervention adopted by social workers, I focus on strategies and knowledge-gathering techniques relevant to empowering women, with an emphasis on five social work methods.
Laina Y. Bay-Cheng
This entry defines sexuality and identifies dominant explanatory models. In doing so, the entry outlines the central debate regarding the relative contributions of biology and social context. In addition, it highlights current key issues in the field of sexuality: the connection between sexuality and social inequality, the growing emphasis on the promotion of sexual health and well-being rather than just the prevention of sexual risk, the salience of sexuality across the life course, and the debate regarding sexuality education policy. Finally, it identifies parallels between these trends and social work, including the relation of sexuality to social work roles and practice.
Rory Truell and David N. Jones
The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development (“the Agenda”) has been developed and promoted jointly by the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW), and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). It is a global platform that advocates for a “socially just world” based on social work and social work–development understandings and principles. The impact of the Agenda upon the international social work community is described, and the implications for daily social work practice are examined.
Women have a lengthy history of fighting their oppression as women and the inequalities associated with this to claim their place on the world stage, in their countries, and within their families. This article focuses on women’s struggles to be recognized as having legitimate concerns about development initiatives at all levels of society and valuable contributions to make to social development. Crucial to their endeavors were: (1) upholding gender equality and insisting that women be included in all deliberations about sustainable development and (2) seeing that their daily life needs, including their human rights, be treated with respect and dignity and their right to and need for education, health, housing, and all other public goods are realized. The role of the United Nations in these endeavors is also considered. Its policies on gender and development, on poverty alleviation strategies—including the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals—are discussed and critiqued. Women’s rights are human rights, but their realization remains a challenge for policymakers and practitioners everywhere. Social workers have a vital role to play in advocating for gender equality and mobilizing women to take action in support of their right to social justice. Our struggle for equality has a long and courageous history.
King Davis and Hyejin Jung
This entry defines the term disparity as measurable differences between groups on a number of indices. The term disparity originated in France in the 16th century and has been used as a barometer of progress in social justice and equality in the United States. When disparity is examined across the U.S. population over a longitudinal period, it is clear that disparities continue to exist and that they distinguish groups by race, income, class, and gender. African American and Native American populations have historically ranked higher in prevalence and incidence than other populations on most indices of disparity. However, the level of adverse health and social conditions has declined for all population groups in the United States. The disparity indices include mortality rates, poor health, disease, absence of health insurance, accidents, and poverty. Max Weber’s theory of community formation is used in this entry to explain the continued presence and distribution of disparities. Other theoretical frameworks are utilized to buttress the major hypothesis by Weber that social ills tend to result from structural faults rather than individual choice. Social workers are seen as being in a position to challenge the structural origins of disparities as part of their professional commitment to social justice.