Human Needs

Michael A. Dover

in Social Work

ISBN: 9780195389678
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Human Needs


As a profession, social work has long been concerned with understanding and meeting human needs. The preamble of the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (see National Association of Social Workers 1999 in General Overviews) states: “The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.” Nevertheless there is a scarcity of literature coming from within the profession of social work that addresses human needs explicitly. However, a growing body of human needs–related literature from other disciplines and professions contributes to the liberal arts foundation of social work. Accordingly this bibliography will explore the history and evolution of the body of human needs theory and research on which social work has drawn historically. In doing so it first draws upon the early history of the use of needs concepts during two key periods of social work history (the Progressive Era and the first fifteen years following World War II) as well as the rise of the early psychological theories of needs that have influenced social work in the decades since. The entry then focuses on the variety of theoretical approaches to human needs that have influenced social work, including Marxian, neo-Marxian, and feminist approaches and recent contributions from economics, philosophy, nursing, and religious thought. The entry then focuses on sections that briefly discuss and annotate contributions to practice, policy, and research that draw upon human needs concepts. The entry ends by clarifying the relationship of human needs concepts to other key concepts for social work, including human rights, social justice, cultural diversity, and oppression. As will be apparent, a number of key debates have arisen regarding needs, including whether they are universal or specific to particular cultures, whether human needs or human rights are more central for social work, and whether social work should focus on people's needs or their capabilities.

Article.  12038 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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