Words of common cause: Social work’s historical democratic discourse

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The United States’ present neoliberal era shares with earlier tumultuous periods significant repressive tendencies in the political and economic domains. In the past, leading social workers confronted such crises in public forums and venues. This discourse analysis examines how they constructed compelling democratic narratives that influenced the enactment of beneficial social policy within three periods of democratic crisis. These social work leaders were members of presidential administrations, leaders of social work professional associations, directors of civil society organizations, and prominent writers for the profession or the public. They communicated through public and professional speeches, peer-reviewed articles, pamphlets, radio addresses, and congressional testimony. Discourse analysis reveals democratic themes such as autonomy, human dignity, equality, recognition, fostering of human capacity, social responsibility, and the necessity of moral contemplation. The historical lesson is that all social workers today should advance democratic discourse in their areas of influence to stem neoliberalism and promote democracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-128
Number of pages54
JournalSocial Service Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

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