Session: (WITHDRAWN) Towards a Political Philosophy of Social Work: Critical Reflections on Theory and Praxis in Critical Times (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

308 (WITHDRAWN) Towards a Political Philosophy of Social Work: Critical Reflections on Theory and Praxis in Critical Times

Sunday, January 15, 2023: 9:45 AM-11:15 AM
Paradise Valley, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
Cluster: Social Work Practice
Symposium Organizer:
Ryan Dougherty, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine
Ryan Dougherty, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine
In recent years, policymakers have envisioned expanded roles for social workers to respond to crises afflicting communities across the United States. These roles include embedding social workers with local policing, increasing involuntary mental health services to address homelessness, and new outreach crisis management teams to respond to violence. On one hand, invoking social work suggests increased visibility and public trust for our profession. It further presents an exciting opportunity to expand our expertise into new avenues of work and infuse existing institutions with our social values. Through a broader critical lens, however, we may also consider how social work can be misappropriated by policymakers to reinforce systems of oppression, even in ways that paradoxically reify the social crises that our profession aims to address in the first place.

We argue that in order to promote a vision of social work that contributes to the overall social good, we must be able to critically interrogate the relationship of social work practices to both systems of oppression and the broader political interests of actors that seek to rely on our expertises. We term this analysis "political philosophy of social work" through which we can aim to reflexively evaluate whether and how certain social work practices are concordant with our anti-oppressive values. The goal of this symposium is to demonstrate how social work research can aid in building a political philosophy of social work that achieves these goals and its indispensable value to our profession.

In our symposium introduction, the first author will briefly introduce central concepts from political philosophy that explore how socio-economic interests of the state are pursued via social and governing institutions. Next, the first author will present how social work scholars have previously drawn from these theories to explore the ways social welfare institutions shape individuals, families, and their communities to meet the interests of the state. Drawing from these frameworks, the following three paper presentations analyze different social welfare institutions (respectively: mental health, child welfare, and homeless services). The first presentation will explore how coercion, wielded by frontline social workers, is ethically rationalized. The second presentation explores how power and racism shape the relationships between social workers and the communities they serve. The last presentation explores how social workers and community members can engage in praxes that support vulnerable populations while countering oppressive ideologies.

The authors will pull from qualitative data to expand on existing theories by exploring the nuances, limitations, and contradictions involved in frontline social work practice, where both practitioners and their clients navigate how their work can both reinforce and resist systemic oppression. After the three paper presentations, the panelists will discuss the relationship between their conclusions to discuss the implications for building a political philosophy of social work. The authors will reflect on lessons for social work and our political purpose in societies, and present an optimistic vision for how social work can more fully realize ethical, anti-oppressive praxes in research, theory, and practice.

* noted as presenting author
"It Takes a Village": Understanding the Role of Social Workers in an Abolitionist Future
Victoria Copeland, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles
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