Social Welfare in Global Context

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James Midgley

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: International Social Welfare and the Global System

    Part II: The Analysis of International Social Welfare

    Part III: Applied International Social Welfare

  • Dedication

    To Michelle, Lolita, and Alison

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    Preface

    I wrote this book specifically to meet the need for a textbook in the field of international social welfare. It is primarily intended for students of social work, social administration, and social policy but should also be relevant to students in other subjects such as sociology, public policy, and economics and also to professionals working in these fields. Of course, it is not the first book on the subject. Indeed, as will be shown, a substantial literature on international social welfare is now available. However, much of it focuses on issues of comparative social policy, describing welfare provisions in different countries and examining theoretical concerns at the international level. Much of this work is rather abstract, or otherwise based on complex statistical analyses of social provisions in different countries. There is clearly a need for a textbook that seeks to provide a broad overview of the field and that caters to the needs of professionals. Very little has previously been published on applied international social welfare, and the interests of practitioners have clearly been neglected.

    By including a section on applied international social welfare, I hope that the book will meet the needs of those who are interested in issues of policy and practice in the international context. The book devotes a section to issues of social work practice, social development, and the activities of international agencies that are seeking to foster greater collaboration in international social welfare. However, the book also contains chapters dealing with key theoretical debates in the field as well as descriptive chapters that seek to provide a comprehensive account of world social conditions and social welfare institutions. It is hoped that the inclusion of material on these diverse aspects will indeed produce a comprehensive work that will be helpful to students and others interested in the subject.

    While I had contemplated the need for a textbook of this kind for some time, it was largely at the instigation of three of my colleagues at the Office of Research at Louisiana State University that it came to fruition. In the Spring of 1996, Michelle Livermore, Lolita Perkins, and Alison Neustrom-Scott encouraged me to offer a graduate seminar in international social welfare at the School of Social Work at LSU and to use the opportunity to write the book. They also assisted with library research and good advice. The completion of the manuscript in September 1996 is largely due to their support and encouragement. I am in their debt and have dedicated the book to them. I would also like to thank the other members of the seminar for their useful comments and suggestions.

    The book was written while I served as Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at Louisiana State University. I would like to thank my Vice Chancellor, Harvill Eaton, for his encouragement. LSU created a conducive environment for my work, and as I move to Berkeley, I remember my years in Louisiana with fond nostalgia. I am grateful to my many colleagues at LSU who provided a stimulating environment for my work.

    The book has benefited from the incisive comments of Fred Ahearn, former Dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service in Washington, D.C., and Michael Sherraden, Benjamin E. Youngdalh Professor of Social Development and Director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Their suggestions for improving the book have been very helpful and demonstrate the benefits of having good friends critically review one's work. I owe special thanks to Jim Nageotte of Sage Publications for commissioning the book and for providing support during the time it was being written. Thanks also go to Kate Peterson, copy editor, and Astrid Virding, production editor. All have helped to make this book possible and I am grateful.

    JAMESMIDGLEYUNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY

    Introduction

    Globalization, or internationalization as it is also known, is an increasingly important feature of modern life. Although the term is not well defined, it is widely used to connote a process of global integration in which diverse peoples, economies, cultures, and political processes are increasingly subjected to international influences. It also refers to a greater awareness of the role of these influences in everyday experience. The importance of globalization is now generally recognized. Indeed, many experts believe that the trend toward increased international exchanges that characterized the decades following World War II will accelerate.

    Some experts believe that the coming century will be a period of even more rapidly expanding international activity. Just as the late 19th century was known as the age of science, and the years following World War II were known as the atomic age, they believe that the new century should be called the global age. This is because the scale of international activity has now reached unprecedented proportions. Today, people engage in international activities more frequently than ever before. Earlier generations could not have predicted the ease with which people travel to other countries; communicate with friends, family members, and colleagues overseas; and are promptly informed about events in other parts of the world. Similarly, they are exposed to international influences to an extent that would not have been possible even 50 years ago. It is likely that the process of globalization will continue and that future generations will be even more affected by these developments.

    The notion of a global age is also fostered by the rapid expansion in communications and information technologies. Many experts believe that the information revolution is driving the process of globalization. Just as industrialization propelled and solidified the nation state in the 19th century, so information technology now fuels the inexorable trend toward globalization. While the role of information technology is crucial in understanding the changes that have taken place, the role of economic and political forces is even more important. As will be shown in Chapter 2, global integration is today propelled by wider economic, political, social, and cultural forces.

    Of course, it is true that human beings have always been influenced by international events. Wars, trade, and imperial expansion have impinged on their lives for many centuries. However, the extent of international contacts, and the impact of international events on the lives of ordinary people, is unprecedented. And most take these activities for granted. People in small American towns watch television news reports about conflicts in Africa, make international calls to family members on vacation in Europe, drive cars manufactured in Japan, or go out to eat foods originating in other countries without even thinking about it. Exposure to international events is not limited to the Western industrial nations. Today, rural villagers in India are familiar with the latest trends in European pop music, know about sensational murder trials in the United States, and are in regular communication with family members who work in other countries.

    Despite the ease with which people now engage in international activities, few appreciate the extent to which they live in an interdependent world. Even fewer recognize the long-term implications of globalization. However, many people do realize that their lives are being affected by international events over which they, their communities, and even their governments have little control. People in the industrial nations have become aware that jobs in manufacturing industry are declining as corporations invest in countries where lower-paid workers produce goods at lower cost than in Europe or North America. Many are also aware that international conflicts in different parts of the world have repercussions at home. In the past, wars in the Middle East have resulted in higher oil prices, increases in inflation, and financial instability. Conflicts in different parts of the world now regularly have an impact on the lives of people in countries that are not directly involved.

    However, despite the growing awareness of the role of international events in domestic affairs, few people really grasp the extent to which the process of globalization will in the future supersede domestic economic activities and limit the efforts of national policy makers to direct local economic processes. Similarly, despite the growth of international migration, few people appreciate the degree to which population movements will increase and how diverse previously homogeneous communities will become. Few recognize that future generations may one day feel little attachment to the countries in which they were born and instead have an international identity that transcends national loyalties.

    For many people, these prospects are deeply troubling. The possible loss of a locally rooted cultural identity, the inability of national governments to resist international economic forces, and the continued immigration of people with different languages and beliefs into local communities is often viewed with apprehension. Despite these concerns, people will have to adapt to the changes that are taking place. Although these changes will probably result in increased tension, conflict, and economic difficulties, the process of globalization will continue inexorably, and those who are able to adapt are most likely to benefit. Those who understand the process of globalization will be best equipped to deal with its changes and exploit the opportunities it offers.

    It is for this reason that many universities today are providing more instruction in international affairs. Business schools, colleges of liberal arts, and schools of public policy now place much more emphasis on international curriculum content than ever before. International events are no longer regarded as the purview of specialized academic units, such as schools of international relations, but as an increasingly important component of a student's general education. It is likely that most universities will in the future require all students to have a solid grounding in international affairs so that they will be better equipped to deal with global realities. In addition to enhancing international course content in the liberal arts curriculum, specialized fields such as engineering, science, and medicine will also place much more emphasis on international content. Indeed, this is already happening in fields such as business, where most faculty members now recognize that an education in business studies is hopelessly incomplete unless students are educated to understand the role of globalization in the commercial and industrial worlds.

    Globalization and Social Welfare

    Social welfare institutions are also being affected by the processes of globalization. Previously, social welfare activities took place at the community and national levels. Religious and philanthropic welfare institutions have historically existed at the local level. By the 19th century, these institutions were established at the national level, and their activities were soon augmented by the expansion of state welfare programs by national governments. Indeed, the provision of government welfare may be viewed as a property of the nation state, and it is perhaps appropriate that the study of social policy should have focused on national activities. However, government social programs are being extensively influenced by global forces today. Economic and political changes arising from globalization are having a direct impact on these programs. In addition, many social problems that government programs have conventionally addressed at the domestic level are also being influenced by these forces. Similarly, social problems arising from migration, conflict, and other international events demand responses that transcend the efforts of national governments.

    At a more prosaic level, it is also important that students of social work and social policy know more about the international field not only in the broad sense of understanding global events but in the technical sense of recognizing how global forces have a direct impact on social work practice, social administration, and social policy making in their own countries. It may, at first, seem surprising that international issues should have an influence of this kind. However, it is not difficult to find examples of how the international dimension impinges on domestic social welfare.

    One obvious example relates to social work practice with immigrants and their families. Today, social workers are routinely involved with people who come from other countries and whose values, beliefs, and attitudes need to be understood if social work intervention is to be effective. Indeed, many of the problems that professional social workers deal with are directly attributable to the fact that their clients are international migrants. Adaptation to a new life, coping with the stresses of living in a different culture, feeling isolated, and experiencing the risk of being subjected to racism are problems to which social workers must respond. However, they can only practice effectively with clients from other countries if they have a proper grasp of the clients’ cultural and social backgrounds and the international context in which they live.

    Another example can be given from the field of social administration and social policy. In the past, social policy makers in the industrial countries often formulated proposals for new social programs without paying any attention to the experiences of their colleagues in other countries. By ignoring these experiences, domestic policy makers often made costly mistakes. Today, it is much more common for policy makers to obtain information about innovations in other countries. By obtaining information of this kind, they have a better idea of the likely costs of the proposed program, of its potential problems, and of its impact on client groups. This information is then taken into account when policy proposals are developed and new programs are implemented.

    Although many professionals and academics in the fields of social work, social administration, and social policy now appreciate the importance of international issues, they are in a minority. Most of those working in these fields remain poorly informed about international events, and few are able to use international information effectively. It is not uncommon for them to regard international social welfare as an exotic specialism that is interesting but of little direct relevance to their daily activities. Similar attitudes characterize many schools of social work where international curriculum content has been quite limited and where elective courses on international social welfare have traditionally attracted only a small number of students.

    This situation will have to change. As was argued earlier, an awareness and appreciation of the international dimension will have to become a part of the mainstream. If social workers and social administrators are to cope with the professional demands placed on them in the new global age, they will have no choice but to engage more actively in the international field and apply international knowledge more systematically to their work.

    Fortunately, there are signs that the situation is indeed changing. Despite the limited progress that has been made, social workers, social administrators, and social policy makers are today better informed about international events than ever before. They are also exposed to greater opportunities to learn and apply international knowledge. Today, the literature on international social welfare is expanding rapidly. International conferences are attracting larger numbers of participants, and more professionals recognize the need to be exposed to international information. Perhaps the most encouraging signs are to be found in professional schools of social work where faculty members committed to internationalizing the curriculum have been campaigning to increase awareness of these issues among their colleagues. In the United States, this has resulted in the inclusion of recommendations in the Council on Social Work Education's Curriculum Policy Statement that greater efforts be made to incorporate course content on international social welfare. If the trend continues, social work students in the future will be far more familiar with international issues. They will also be more able to incorporate international information into their professional activities.

    It is hoped that these developments will also foster enhanced professional exchanges among social workers, social administrators, and social policy makers from different countries. The social problems of poverty, conflict, deprivation, hunger, and inequality that face the international community today are of such magnitude and severity that they need to be addressed at the global level. It is essential that social welfare professionals collaborate more effectively to bring about improvements in these conditions.

    The Scope of this Book

    The book is divided into three parts. Part I is concerned with international social welfare and the global system. It examines the nature of international social welfare as a field of interest in social work, social administration, and social policy. It defines key terms and traces the historical development of research in the field. It reviews various approaches to studying international social welfare and concludes with a discussion of some of the methodological and professional challenges facing those who undertake international research. To put international social welfare into context, the next chapter provides an account of the trend toward globalization and discusses the issues arising from this phenomenon. It discusses the emergence of the global system and reviews different theoretical interpretations of this phenomenon. It concludes by discussing the ideology of internationalism as a belief system that is relevant to any discussion of globalization.

    Part II of the book is concerned with the analysis of international social welfare. Using the definition of social welfare provided in the first chapter of the book, it examines global social conditions with reference to trends in different parts of the world. It shows that despite significant social progress, social conditions in many regions remain unsatisfactory. An account of the way social welfare is promoted in different parts of the world is then provided. Although attention is paid to the different institutions that function to enhance people's welfare, special emphasis is placed on the role of governments in fostering social welfare. The expansion of state welfare has been one of the most distinctive and ubiquitous features of social and political life of the past century. Chapter 5 reviews different theoretical explanations for the origins and functions of state welfare in the light of the international evidence. The overall impact of state welfare systems in different countries is examined in Chapter 6, with special reference to standards of living, the economy, and equality. Part II concludes with an account of the way government social welfare is being retrenched in many different parts of the world. It asks whether this has resulted in an international crisis of state welfare, and it speculates on what the future for social welfare institutions will be.

    Part III of the book deals with issues of applied international social welfare. It discusses the nature and history of social work in the international context and examines major challenges facing the profession today. These include the challenge of promoting social justice around the world, the challenge of defining appropriate roles and functions for social work, and finally, the challenge of fostering truly reciprocal international exchanges. Chapter 9 discusses social development as an approach for promoting social welfare. Social development has made a unique international contribution to integrating economic and social policies within a dynamic development process. In the final chapter, international collaboration in social welfare is discussed with reference to the role of the intergovernment agencies, international voluntary organizations, and international professional associations. The activities of these organizations are briefly described and reference is made to the way their services are linked to the work of national governments and domestic nonprofit groups. Examples are given to illustrate international efforts in social welfare. These examples are also used to examine some controversial issues arising from international collaboration.

    It is hoped that this broad overview of the field will not only inform but inspire readers to become more actively involved in the international world of social welfare. There are many more opportunities to participate in international social welfare activities today. Although it may not always be possible to attend international conferences, visit colleagues in other countries, and collaborate on joint research and program development projects, involvement can be enhanced through supporting the activities of international development organizations, attending local meetings on international issues, and even reading about developments in the field in international journals. Enhanced involvement in international activities of all kinds will not only increase professional competence but also promote greater collaboration to improve the welfare of the world's peoples.

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    About the Author

    James Midgley is Harry and Riva Specht Professor of Public Social Services and Dean of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously, he was at Louisiana State University, where he was Dean of the School of Social Work and Associate Vice Chancellor. Prior to serving at LSU, he taught at the London School of Economics and the University of Cape Town. He has published 15 books on social work, social policy, and social development and some 50 book chapters and 70 journal articles. He serves on the editorial boards of eight major journals and has given the Daniel Sanders Memorial Lecture at the University of Illinois, the Peter Hodge Memorial Lecture at the University of Hong Kong, and the Kenneth L. L. Pray Lecture at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1996, he received the International Rhoda Sarnat Prize from the National Association of Social Workers for his efforts to enhance public recognition of social work.


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