In This Article Social Justice and Social Work

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • History of Social Work and Social Justice
  • Empowerment
  • Inequality
  • Intersectionality
  • Microaggressions
  • Multiculturalism
  • Oppression
  • Privilege
  • Translating Social Justice into Practice
  • Social Justice and Social Work Research
  • Teaching Social Justice
  • Global Social Justice

Social Work Social Justice and Social Work
by
Elizabeth D. Hutchison
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0078

Introduction

Social justice is recognized as a core value of social work, and justice-oriented social work has roots in the early history of the profession. However, there are controversies about the meaning of social justice and the most appropriate theoretical approach for justice-oriented social work. There are also challenges in translating conceptualizations of social justice into practice. Although social research was a method of promoting social justice in the early settlement houses, there is limited contemporary guidance on using social work research as a tool for promoting social justice. There are also controversies about the best pedagogy for teaching about social justice in social work education programs. In recent years social work scholars have expanded the conversation about social justice to include global social justice.

General Overviews

Both international and national codes of ethics for social workers include the words “social justice” somewhere in their ethical statements. Social justice is one of two ethical principles identified in International Federation of Social Workers 2012. It is one of three core values underpinning the Code of Ethics of the Australian Association of Social Workers (Australian Association of Social Workers 2010). Canadian Association of Social Workers 2005 includes the pursuit of social justice as one of its six core values, and US National Association of Social Workers 2008 identifies social justice as one of six core values of social work. Bonnycastle 2011 provides a conceptual model for considering multiple dimensions of social justice. Finn and Jacobson 2008 provides a comprehensive framework for engaging in social justice–oriented social work practice. The Journal of Progressive Human Services is a justice-oriented journal for social workers and other human service professionals.

  • Australian Association of Social Workers. 2010. Code of Ethics. Kingston, Australia: Australian Association of Social Workers.

    E-mail Citation »

    The professional code of ethics lists social justice as one of three core social work values and provides five principles for enacting this value.

  • Bonnycastle, Colin R. 2011. Social justice along a continuum: A relational illustrative model. Social Service Review 85.2: 267–295.

    DOI: 10.1086/660703E-mail Citation »

    A journal article that examines the contested nature of the concept of social justice. Proposes a multidimensional approach to social justice that includes distributive justice, identity justice, human rights, social welfare, and political ideology. Analyzes each of these dimensions along a three-point continuum.

  • Canadian Association of Social Workers. 2005. Code of Ethics. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Association of Social Workers.

    E-mail Citation »

    The Canadian Code of Ethics lists the pursuit of social justice as the second of six core social work values and provides four principles for enacting this value.

  • Finn, Janet L., and Maxine Jacobson. 2008. Just practice: A social justice approach to social work. 2d ed. Peosta, IA: Eddie Bowers.

    E-mail Citation »

    A textbook that presents a comprehensive framework for social justice–oriented social work practice. Builds on five themes: meaning, context, power, history, and possibility. Uses a participatory learning approach and is full of action exercises and questions for individual and group critical reflection. Excellent resource for both students and instructors.

  • International Federation of Social Workers. 2012. Statement of Ethical Principles. Berne, Switzerland: International Federation of Social Workers.

    E-mail Citation »

    The International Federation of Social Workers includes social justice as one of two ethical principles underpinning the profession of social work internationally. It provides five guidelines for promoting social justice in social work practice.

  • Journal of Progressive Human Services. 1987–.

    E-mail Citation »

    Covers social issues and professional responses from a progressive perspective. Encourages articles that focus on oppression and empowerment. A good journal to peruse to identify contemporary themes related to social justice–oriented social work practice.

  • United States National Association of Social Workers. 2008. Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Revised. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.

    E-mail Citation »

    The professional code of ethics lists social justice as one of six core values of social workers and describes an ethical principle for enacting this core value.

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