What is it about?

This article starts from the position that while generally unacknowledged in mainstream academic literature, some degree of ecological and societal collapse is inevitable in the next few decades. Hence, social work has a responsibility to steward the future of our profession to support solidarity amongst what seems likely to be a fracturing state capacity for social care provision, in what will likely remain a neo-liberally informed global hegemony. The argument is made that the activist ethos of community development will be essential to social work’s moral integrity in future, in resisting becoming an oppressive instrument of state control in a degrading environmental context.

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Why is it important?

My research and reading over the last 8 years makes it very clear that the current neo-liberal hegemony has no capacity, (or real interest) in braking the worlds trajectory toward some sort of collapse that is likely to be both societal and environmental in nature and likely to hit in the next 15 to 20 years. Social work faces a moral choice about how we respond. We can align in solidarity with those most harmed by such changes or become a policing arm of desperate states aiming to maintain a poisonous status quo that really only benefits the hyper-rich. The soul of social is in the balance. In western Europe and the colonised countries we faced similar choices in the past. Now the challenge is global and I would argue our profession is ill-equipped to face such a challenge without a new courage and willingness to consider social works relevance and applicability in a rapidly degrading global environment. There are hard choices ahead and social work as a unified profession needs to face these,


I have been on the PhD journey for some years and while I first started from a position off how can we fend off environmental / societal catastrophe? I now take the position that some degree of collapse is inevitable. Hence, as a social work practitioner and educator I am now interested in how we might do better in future in facing with courage and decency the different and damaged world our children will inherit.

david Kenkel
Unitec Institute of Technology

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Social work in the face of collapse, Critical and Radical Social Work, August 2020, Policy Press,
DOI: 10.1332/204986020x15810733591637.
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