Title : International Social Work: Issues, Strategies And Programs
Authors : David Cox and Manohar Pawar
Publisher : Vistaar Publications, New Delhi, 2006
(A division of Sage Publication India Pvt. Ltd)
Pages : 421 PB
Price : Rs 595


South Asia is a region of great contrasts. It contains the emerging power of India as one of the world’s great nations, alongside some of the world’s least developed countries. At the local level, the region is also one of great contrasts. It has some of the world’s largest NGOs that have acquired considerable experience over the years, yet in much of the region there is significant shortage of grassroots workers. In the light of such contrasts, the region represents an ideal laboratory for showing what social work can achieve both within and beyond national barriers.

Social work, as a profession or pursuit, originated in the nineteenth century. The movement began primarily in the United States and England. Social work has its roots in the struggle of society to deal with poverty and the resultant problems. Therefore, social work is intricately linked with the idea of charity work, but must be understood as also distinctly different. The concept of charity goes back to ancient times, and the practice of providing for the poor has roots in all major world religions. However, the practice and profession of social work has a relatively modern and scientific origin. During the Middle Ages, the church had a vast influence on European society and charity was considered to be a responsibility and a sign of one’s piety. This charity was in the form of direct relief (for example, giving money, food, or other material goods to alleviate a particular need), as opposed to trying to change the root causes of poverty. After the end of feudalism, the poor were seen as a more direct threat to the social order, and so the state formed an organised system to care for them. In England, the Poor Law sorted the poor into different categories, such as the able-bodied poor and the idle poor. This system developed different responses to these different groups.

The current state of social work professional development is characterised by two realities. There is a great deal of traditional social and psychological research (both qualitative and quantitative) being carried out primarily by university based researchers as well as researchers based in institutes, foundations, or social service agencies. Meanwhile, many social work practitioners continue to look to their own experience for knowledge. This is a continuation of the debate that has persisted since the outset of the profession in the first decade of the twentieth century. One reason for the gap between information obtained through practice, as opposed to through research, is that practitioners deal with situations that are unique and idiosyncratic, while research concentrates on similarities. The combining of these two types of knowledge is often imperfect. A hopeful development for bridging this gap is the compilation, in many practice fields, of collections of ‘best practices’ which attempt to distill research findings and the experience of respected practitioners into effective practice techniques. Although social work has roots in the informatics revolution, an important contemporary development in the profession is overcoming the suspicion of technology and taking advantage of the potential of information technology to empower clients.

Many developemnts in social work have already occurred in India, including a strong focus on social evelopment and on social work in rural areas. Further work can only enhance the worldwide understanding of social work’s ability to develop appropriate responses to a wide range of needs and situations. This is so because despite India’s well-documented development at many levels, it, along with other countries in the sub-region, still contains widespread and intense poverty, significant levels of inequality of various forms, frequent examples of serious natural disasters, considerable civil conflict, large numbers of street children and child labourers, and significant welfare needs within large populations of the elderly, women, and various minority group members. There is, therefore, a major challenge to social work to show how it can contribute significantly within an effective response to such areas of need.

International Social Work: Issues, Strategies And Programs draws together the practice wisdom emerging within the broad scope of international social work practice. Using an integrated perspectives approach, which incorporates global, human rights, ecological and social developement pespectives, the authors have attempted to prepare the readers to actively respond to modern global challenges that are critical to the well-being of the people, communities, nations and, ultimately, all of us.

This book provides a novel approach to international social work and social development practice to give the readers alternative theoretical frameworks that are usually absent on other books in this genre. The focus here is on the experience of teaching and practicing international social work, raher than reflecting it on the field. With comprehensive tables, chapter summaries, learning exercises and questions, possible research areas, along with recommended readings to prompt critical thinking and classroom discussion, David Cox and Manohar Pawar have indeed written an excellent resource for social workers, human services professionals and development practitioners. q


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