The radical challenge

  • Mike Simpkin
Part of the Crisis Points book series


Radicalism in social work is an accumulation of social and political critiques from a variety of sources. The uneasy coexistence of these critiques results from the contradictory position in which radicals find themselves. The springboard of radicalism is a rejection of social work in any of its present forms as anything but an institutionalised substitute for the caring relationships which people in any predicament could expect and enjoy in a less exploitative society. On the other hand many radicals believe that those who are exploited or rejected by society should pursue their rights as forcefully as possible, and social work offers one method of helping them towards a position to do so. Radicals are also faced with having to earn a living themselves and resisting their own exploitation. The resulting contradictions make it difficult if not impossible to act consistently. Facing up to them, and simultaneously attempting to maintain open and honest relationships with clients in conditions which favour deceit, make radicalism a vulnerable and painful undertaking. Add the fact that the involvement in union and political activity which radicals consider indispensable can itself either be boring or attract intense hostility from established interests, and our commitment becomes yet more unenviable; the courage, caring and capacity for work which are required make real radicalism a daunting task.


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Notes and references

  1. 1.
    This topic is discussed, all too briefly, by Eric Hobsbawm in the essay ‘Revolution and Sex’, in Hobsbawm , Revolutionaries (London: Quartet, 1977).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See the discussion in G. Pearson, The Deviant Imagination (London: Macmillan, 1975) ch. 3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 5.
    R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967) p. 102.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    F. Kitson, Low Intensity Operations (London: Faber, 1971);Google Scholar
  5. see also J. McCuen, The Art of Counter-Revolutionary Warfare (London: Faber, 1966).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Ted Clark and Dennis T. Jaffe, Towards a Radical Therapy (New York: Gordon and Breach, 1973).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Crescy Cannan, ‘Welfare Rights and Wrongs’, in R. Bailey and M. Brake (eds), Radical Social Work (London: Arnold, 1975).Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Ron Bailey, The Squatters (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973). See also Mike Downing, The Ideal Homes Myth’, Case Con 11, April 1973.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    R. Bryant, ‘Professionals in the Firing Line’, British Journal of Social Work, vol. 3, no. 2, Summer 1973, p. 173.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    M. Ciacci, ‘Psychiatric Control’, in H. Bianchi, M. Simondi, I. Taylor (eds), Deviance and Control in Europe (London: Wiley, 1975).Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    For a simple but essential critical account of NALGO’s structure and the Whitley Council negotiating system, see Barry White, Whitleyism or Rank and File Action? (London: NALGO Action Group, 1975).Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Z. Butrym, The Nature of Social Work (London: Macmillan, 1976) p. 60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Mike Simpkin 1979

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  • Mike Simpkin

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