By Bikshu Sangharakshita
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Additional resources for Buddhism and the West
Likewise, today’s social work student would be struck by the absence of terms such as ‘discrimination’ and ‘oppression’, which are ubiquitous within the present-day literature. The definitions outlined serve to illustrate thinking around the role of social work in the period leading up to the mid-1970s. How this changed in the wake of the radical social work movement and its offshoots from the mid- to late 1970s onwards is the subject of Chapter Two. But what do social workers do? It will be useful at this point to detail the day-to-day work in which the social worker in the period under discussion would be engaged, in order to emphasise the diversity of the role, and also to allow us to look at what, if any, changes have occurred in recent years.
Understandings of and developments within social work 3. Unlike other professions, social workers are usually employed by an agency or institution; thus, practice lacks a certain degree of professional autonomy accorded to professions like medicine or law. 4. Social work developed from a number of specialities and responses to human need. The melding of these various endeavours into one professional body is still somewhat incomplete. They will also vary historically. In an early attempt to define social work, Reynolds, writing in 1935, saw it as concerning itself with: human beings where there is anything that hinders or thwarts their growth, their expanding consciousness, their increasing co-operation.
Hegel’s Absolute Spirit, embodied by the state, could reconcile the contradictions within society. For Marx, on the contrary the state and its representations within civil society had to be transcended, as rather than resolve contradictions within society they upheld those distinctions in favour of the ruling class (Bensaid, 2002). The radical social work movement’s inspirations were at times so diverse as to be contradictory. The Marxist analysis of the role of the state and its emphasis on structure did not rest easily with the phenomenological, subjective view of the ‘consumer’ of social welfare advocated by consumerists.
Buddhism and the West by Bikshu Sangharakshita