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A Poetics of Social Work

A Poetics of Social Work: Personal Agency and Social Transformation in Canada, 1920-1939

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 156
  • Book Info
    A Poetics of Social Work
    Book Description:

    Moffatt considers the epistemological influences in the field of Canadian social work and social welfare from 1920 to 1939 through the analysis of the thought of leading social welfare practitioners.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7040-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    Most analyses of social work and social policy have had a liberal, technological bias. As a result, writings on social work history have relied heavily on the recounting of facts and events, and analyses of legislative change and policy content. Although useful, this approach to the history of social work at times ignores underlying assumptions, the values embedded in those assumptions, and the subjectivities that influenced various events. In particular, the impact of social scientific and technological thought on social work and social policy has often been assumed, or been treated as progressive and triumphal in nature. Value-oriented, humanistic contributions...

  5. 1 The Contested Concepts of Social Service and Social Change
    (pp. 12-29)

    Many Canadians during the 1920s and the 1930s were prepared to face social ills directly rather than avert their gaze from the increasing evidence of those social ills, which were a result of modernization, industrialization, and urbanization. Philosophers, social welfare practitioners, academics, and the clergy developed a broad spectrum of approaches to combatting social ills; however, all shared the conviction that society could be reconstructed through direct interventions in the social fabric. Social reformers across the ideological spectrum set out to find the proper methods for gathering social evidence and constructing social truth, with the goal of promoting social reconstruction....

  6. 2 Social Work Practice Informed by Philosophy: The Social Thought of Edward Johns Urwick
    (pp. 30-45)

    Edward Johns Urwickʹs contribution to the debate about the true nature of social work knowledge was based in the humanities. First and foremost, he was a social philosopher who believed that social work matters could only be understood in philosophical terms. He drew from diverse sources including practical wisdom, the Vedanta, Judeo-Christian thought, and Plato. As the head of both the University of Torontoʹs social work school and its Department of Political Economy, he was influential in the fields of Canadian social service and social work. Dorothy Livesay (see Chapter 3), who met Urwick in 1932 while she was his...

  7. 3 Dorothy Livesayʹs Politics of Engagement
    (pp. 46-68)

    There were politics at play in the hiring of Dorothy Livesay to fill a social work position with the Welfare Field Service of British Columbia in 1936. At the time, that provinceʹs director of social welfare, Harry Cassidy, was pleading with E.J. Urwick for help in pushing forward a plan for founding an institute of socio-economic research at the University of Toronto. Although Cassidy had entertained Livesay in his home,¹ he thought it necessary to seek Urwickʹs opinion before hiring her. Livesay had been a pupil of Urwickʹs at the Department of Social Service.² When Cassidy finally decided to hire...

  8. 4 Social Science in a Secular Society: The Thought of Carl Addington Dawson
    (pp. 69-85)

    In 1930 the Canadian Conference on Social Work brought together Carl Dawson, director of McGillʹs social work school, E.J. Urwick, director of the University of Torontoʹs Department of Social Service, and Charlotte Whitton, executive director of the Canadian Council on Child and Family Welfare and lecturer at both McGill and the University of Toronto. In a session called ʹRecruiting and Training Social Workers,ʹ each presented a personal view of social work training requirements. Dawson argued for training in technique and research and also for the ʹdignified control of professional entryʹ into the social work field of the type apparent in...

  9. 5 A Scientific and Philanthropic Christian Community: The Philosophy of Charlotte Whitton
    (pp. 86-100)

    Charlotte Whitton was an active member of the social work academic community during the 1920s and 1930s. She lectured in social work at both McGill University and the University of Toronto,¹ and regularly presented papers at social work conferences. At the 1930 Canadian Conference on Social Work, on a panel that was chaired by Harry Cassidy and also included E.J. Urwick and Carl Dawson, she presented a paper about social workersʹ recruitment and training.² By the mid-1930s, Whitton was so influential in the field of social welfare that she acted as a social policy consultant to Prime Minister R.B. Bennett.³...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 101-116)

    All of the subjects in this study had an Anglo-Saxon, middle-class, Christian background. The dominance of white Anglo-Saxon middle-class leaders in social work probably reflects Canadaʹs class and ethnic relations during the interwar years. In some respects, their arguments about social relations circulated within a closed group. Access to leadership, and therefore access to discussions about the social workerʹs proper role in social relations, was granted to those of a particular religion, and ethnic background.

    Although each of the subjects was committed to social work, all were involved in other fields as well. Dawson, who was a leader in the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 117-140)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 141-150)
  13. Index
    (pp. 151-156)