In this guest blog post by Filipe Duarte (School of Social Work, Carleton University, Canada) Filipe introduces his recently published article arguing that the rise of right-wing populism is threatening to undermine social work values and that social workers must respond.
The recent rise of right-wing populism (indicated by events such as the election of Donald Trump in the USA, and the return of fascists to the German Reichstag) represents a serious challenge to the current social order. The broad liberal consensus, established during the post-cold war period, and founded on principles of multiculturalism, universalism, human rights, peace and prosperity is now, everywhere, in jeopardy.
The logic of right-wing populism reproduces assumptions and beliefs that violate the values, principles and commitments of social work. In this new political context social workers and social work organisations are beginning to speak out, to denounce right-wing rhetoric and to uphold social justice, human rights and the dignity of people. Those at the margins are also calling for social work advocacy and activism to act on their behalf.
The most recent special issue of Social Dialogue 17 on Populism and Social Work provides an important account of the issues of populism, discrimination, injustice, bigotry, racism, oppression and violence. It further outlines social work’s vision of the kinds of responses that should take place in support of respect for human rights, freedom and greater social justice. This is supported by social work’s already established political commitment in the form of the “Global Agenda” launched in 2012 by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), and the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW).
As I argue in the article The Challenge of Right-Wing Populism for Social Work (pp. 36-38), “in the 21st century, social workers are the biggest organised social movement in the world concerned with the principles of social justice, human rights and self-determination. Undoubtedly, social workers play a crucial role in inspiring others and can also force issues on the political agenda, turning the impossible into the inevitable. Social work is rooted in community organisation and social activism.”
As Murray Bookchin (1982) has stated “if we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.”
Image credit: Stephen Melkisethian