Journal Article

Economic Inequality and Economic Crisis: A Challenge for Social Workers

Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg

in Social Work

Published on behalf of National Association of Social Workers

Volume 57, issue 3, pages 211-224
Published in print July 2012 | ISSN: 0037-8046
Published online August 2012 | e-ISSN: 1545-6846 | DOI:
Economic Inequality and Economic Crisis: A Challenge for Social Workers

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To social workers, extreme economic inequality is primarily a violation of social justice, but this article shows how growing economic inequality since the mid-1970s was not only unjust, but also dysfunctional to the U.S. economy and linked to the recent economic crisis with its devastating effects, particularly on the social work clientele. The article identifies interrelated changes in ideology, the market economy, and government policies since the mid-1970s; contrasts the political economy of this period with the preceding post–World War II decades when the trend was toward a “shared prosperity”; and shows how increased economic inequality and political consequences that undermined democracy itself contributed to the economic meltdown. The analysis has implications for the direction of social reform and for broadening the constituency of social movements in pursuit of the social work mission of social justice. How social workers can contribute to such movements and to a reduction of economic and political inequality is explored.

Keywords: economic crisis; economic inequality; political economy; social justice; social movements

Journal Article.  8728 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Work

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