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Creating Community


Creating Community & Social Justice in a Polarized America Michael Reisch, Ph.D., LMSW Robert J. O Leary Memorial Lecture College of Social Work – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Creating Community

Creating Community Social Justice in a
Polarized America
  • Michael Reisch, Ph.D., LMSW
  • Robert J. OLeary Memorial Lecture
  • College of Social Work
  • Ohio State University
  • October 25, 2012

Overview of Presentation
  • Visions of Community Social Justice
  • America Divided and Unequal
  • Old Assumptions New Realities
  • Rebuilding Community
  • Creating Socially Just Policies Practices
  • Developing a Counter-Narrative

What is our vision of the American Community?
  • Who is an American?
  • Who deserves help?
  • Who must provide?

How can we reconcile diverse views of social
  • What are the implications for
  • social policy practice?

What is Community?
  • What is community? Not just where you were
    born of where you lay your head down to sleep.
    Community is a mix of history, experience,
    stories, and imagination possibility. The man
    who went away 20 years ago can still be very much
    a part of community as can, I believe, a woman
    who has not yet been there, who will not cross
    paths with a given community for another 20
  • Rick Bass, Round River, Orion, Summer 1997.
    Also displayed at Parsons Memorial Lodge,
    Tuolomne Meadows, Yosemite National Park.

Conceptions of Community
  • Geographic place
  • Common interests, history, identity, social
    concerns, social relations
  • Personal Community A combination of location,
    identity interests

Major Functions of a Community
  • Produce, Distribute Consume Goods Services
  • Socialization
  • Balance social control social participation
  • Provide mutual support assistance
  • Reach consensus on goals strategies
  • Collaborate on problem identification problem

The Evolution of Social Justice
  • From Group Specific to Universal
  • From Religious to Secular Justice
  • Social Justice Human Rights/Well-Being
  • Social Justice, Equality, and Freedom
  • From Individual Social Justice to the Social
    Contract (Mutuality)
  • From Justice as Goal to Socially Just Process
  • From Material Goods to Human Capabilities

Social Justice in the U.S.
  • Regional, cultural, and group differences
  • Reflected in language, goals, programs, and
    organizational forms.
  • Conflicts between social justice social
    stability, between equality and freedom
  • The U.S. concept of social justice today is an
    evolving hybrid of diverse cultural norms.

Social Justice Today Conflicting Interpretations
  1. Equal Rights Opportunities- Fair Play
  2. Equal or Equitable Results- Fair Shares
  3. Justice Based on Merit or Productivity
  4. Justice Based on Individual Needs
  5. Justice Based on Individual Status
  6. Compensation for Past Injustice
  7. Justice as Enhancement of Capability
  8. Zero Sum Game or Win/Win?

Competing Visions of Social Justice
  • All Include
  • Eradication of injustice
  • An equitable distribution of power/resources
  • Distributive opportunities frameworks
  • Conflicts Exist Between
  • Social Justice Human Rights
  • Emphasis on outcomes vs. opportunities
  • Meaning of Social Justice Itself

Community Social Justice in the U.S.
  • Assimilation The Melting Pot
  • Segregation Separate and Unequal
  • Cultural Pluralism Society as Mosaic
  • A Color-Blind Society A Meritocracy
  • Community The equal application of justice

A Difficult Issue
  • How can we apply a concept of social justice
    based on individual rights to address group needs?

Why is the American Community Breaking Down?
  • Social physical isolation
  • Demographic cultural disparities
  • Absence of social capital (trust relationships)
  • Uneven distribution of power resources
  • Conflicts between over scarce resources
  • Impact of unprecedented, complex changes
  • Lack of control over macro issues
  • No history of community cooperation
  • Use of wedge issues to divide conquer

Increasing Socio-Economic Inequality Its Impact
  • Wide gaps in distribution of income wealth
  • Persistence, intensification, and increasing
    likelihood of poverty
  • Increasing racial disparities in health, mental
    health, education, housing, and employment

Income Disparity in the U.S., 1977-1999
  • The top 1 (2.7 M households) had as much
    disposable income as the bottom 40 (100 M
    households) 620 billion.
  • 60 of all households took home a thinner slice
    of the economic pie in 1999 than they did in 1977
    despite booms of 80s 90s.
  • Top 20 of households earned more than half of
    all of the income in the US (more than the other
    80 of US households).

Changes in Average After-Tax Income, 1979-2005
(CBO, 12/07)
  • Quintile 1979 2005
  • Lowest 1/5 14,400 15,300 6
  • Second 1/5 29,100 33,700 16
  • Middle 1/5 41,500 50,200 21
  • Fourth 1/5 54,300 70,300 29
  • Top 1/5 95,700 172,200 80
  • Top 1 326,400 1,071,500 228

Inequality, 2005-2007(Prior to Great Recession)
  • 2007 top 1 of households had largest share of
    after-tax income since 1979
  • Middle and lowest 1/5 of households had smallest
    share of after-tax income.
  • Top 1 of households earned 70 x as much as
    bottom 1/5. In 1979 22 times.
  • 2006 tax cuts gave bottom 1/5 20 middle 1/5
    740 top 1 44,200.

Inequality Hits the Middle Class
Full employment
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More Recently
  • In 2010, 93 of the additional income created in
    the U.S. went to the top 1. Their income
    increased 11.6.
  • 37 of this additional income went to the top
    .01 (average income 23.8M)
  • The bottom 99 received an average increase of
    80 adjusted for inflation.

Inequality Since the 1990s Share of Income
Earned by 1
  • Clinton Years 45
  • Bush Recovery Years 65
  • Obama Years 93

Class Divisions Widen
  • Since 1980
  • Pay for college grads up 15.7
  • Pay for workers w/o HS diploma has fallen 25.7

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From Injustice by Pablo Neruda
  • Early on, I discovered the range of injustice.
  • Hunger was not just hunger,
  • But rather a measure of man.
  • Cold and wind were also measures.
  • The proud man racked up a hundred hungers,
  • Then fell.

Social Justice Poverty
  • 50 Million Americans are poor - 1/6
  • Over ¼ of African Americans Latinos
  • 12 of African Americans over 10 of Latinos
    experience extreme poverty
  • Since 1980, racial ethnic minorities are 2.5 -3
    times more likely to be poor.
  • 1 in 7 households (50 million) are hungry

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  • of SNAP beneficiaries up 50 since 2008 now
    averages 45 million people/month
  • 1/2 of all SNAP participants are children
  • 1/3 are elderly or disabled
  • 37 M people receive emergency food aid up 46
    since 2006

Women Poverty
  • Adult women 32 more likely to be poor.
  • Elderly women and female single parents are 62
    more likely to be poor.
  • At every educational level, women are more likely
    to be poor.
  • U.S. has highest poverty rate for female-headed
    households among the 22 most industrialized
    nations, about 3 times higher.

Child Family Poverty
  • Overall rate of child poverty now 20.7. Highest
    in industrialized world.
  • 35.7 of African American children
  • 1/3 of all young families in the US are poor
  • 1/3 of people who are hungry are children
  • 22 of all children live in hungry households
  • In DC 30.7 of children live in families
    without consistent access to food.

Poverty Among the Elderly
  • 1/3 of elderly households have to choose between
    food and medical care, and between food and
  • By mid 2020s, number of food insecure elderly
    projected to increase by 50.
  • Without SS, millions more would be poor.

The Real Poverty Rate
  • Poverty data underestimate poverty 3 ways.
  • - Homeless persons prisoners
  • - People doubled up or living with family
  • - Poverty thresholds are set way too low,
    especially in high cost urban areas
  • If poverty line was 25,000, 1/3 of the US
    population would be poor (100 M).
  • 75 of Americans have incomes below 50,000/year.

The Long-term Impact of Poverty on the American
  • Over 50 of U.S. population is poor at some time
    before age 65, especially when young.
  • 91 of African Americans are poor at some time
  • Individuals have 1/3 chance of escaping poverty
    in a given year BUT
  • 1/2 who escape poverty are poor again in 5
  • For those poor for 5 years, more than 2/3 who
    escape poverty are poor again within 5 years.

Broader Inequalities in Health andMental Health
in the U.S.
  • Different groups are differentially affected by
    certain health mental health problems due to
  • Race/ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic
    status, geographic location, occupation, sexual
  • Health mental health disparities have a
    reciprocal relationship with inequalities in
    other domains, e.g.
  • Social, political, and economic conditions
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Environmental pollution

Inequalities in Health Mental Health
Access to health care Psychosocial
factors Working conditions Environmental exposure
Physical Health
Mental Health
Social Isolation/Support Social Stress Labelling
Inequalities in Health Mental Health
Access to health care Psychosocial
factors Working conditions Environmental
factors Residential Segregation
Physical Health
Mental Health
The Budget Social Justice
A Revised View of the FY 2010 Federal Budget
Why is There So Much Poverty Inequality in the
  • Uses of Poverty Maintain status quo
  • Social policies that widen rich/poor gap
  • Stigmatization of poor vulnerable
  • Individualization of the problem
  • Reframing of issues as distraction Focus on
    fiscal deficits and fiscal costs rather than
    social deficits and social costs

How Did This Happen?
  • Changes in tax policy since the 1980s
  • Minimum wage stagnant until late 90s
  • Decrease in value of welfare benefits
  • Cuts in private benefits (esp. pensions)
  • Decline of unions outsourcing of jobs
  • Deindustrialization globalization
  • Increased cost of basic goods

Why Is there No Social Justice in America?
  • Façade of national unity, American exceptionalism
    focus on external enemies obscures the
    persistence of social inequality.
  • Structure of communities hides long-standing
    social divisions by isolating the disadvantaged.
  • Proponents of social justice are often attacked
    as subversive marginalized including within
    the social work profession.

What is to be Done?
  • Challenge Outdated Assumptions
  • Recognize Respond to New Realities
  • Return to our Roots
  • Close Gap between Rhetoric Practice
  • Develop BOTH Socially Just Policies and Socially
    Just Practice Methods

Outdated Assumptions About
  • Role of government in market economy
  • Social/cultural divisions in U.S. society
  • Relationship of social work to the state
  • Inter-sectoral relationships
  • Relationship of social workers clients
  • Skills social workers need

New Political Economic Realities
  • Impact of economic globalization
  • Cutbacks in government spending on SW
  • Ideological attacks on entitlement programs
  • Political polarization changes in the
    distribution of political power
  • Privatization of social welfare/social services
  • Inequalities in income wealth, disparities in
    health, MH, employment and education

New Social Cultural Realities
  • Demographic changes
  • - Aging of population - Immigration
  • Population shift Urban/rural, coast/ heartland
  • Composition of cities, workforce, households
  • Cultural changes
  • Attitudes about sexual orientation
  • Gender roles and family structures
  • Conceptions of work and retirement

New or More Complex Issues
  • Climate Change Global Epidemics
  • Immigration Migration
  • New Forms of Substance Abuse
  • Impact of War on Individuals Families
  • Instability of Work, Housing, Retirement
  • Permanent Social/Economic Stratification
  • Growing Structural Unemployment
  • Financing Crises of SS Medicare

New Practice Challenges
  • Restructuring of U.S. welfare state Rollback of
    egalitarian policies
  • Disciplinary nature of institutions
  • More involuntary clients
  • Declining financial viability of nonprofits
  • Revised mission culture of nonprofits
    Privatization Marketization of SW
  • Changing nature of clients needs

Back to the Future RevitalizingCommunity
Practice Research
  • Analyze root causes of inequality injustice
  • Emphasize power dynamics of practice
  • Juxtapose goals of market economy and SW
  • Critique role of ideology and culture
  • Promote structural institutional change
  • Create alternative institutions processes
  • Promote new visions of society community

Social Works Historic Focus on Community
Social Justice
  • Raised public consciousness on issues
  • Produced critical social reforms
  • Forged unique roles for non-profit CBOs
  • Created new more responsive services
  • Forged diverse professional leadership
  • Introduced global perspective
  • Gave profession moral cover by translating its
    rhetoric into practice

Jane Addams Ellen Gates Starr Creating
Community Practice
Jane Addams Alice Paul Promoting Peace
Womens Suffrage
Ida Wells Barnett and Lillian Wald Resisting
Racial Gender Violence
Mary Church Terrell Mary McLeod Bethune Early
Civil Rights Leaders
George E. Haynes W.E.B. DuBois Speaking Out
for Racial Justice
Eduard Lindemann Mary Parker Follett A New
State A New Community
Saul Alinsky Creating Modern Community Practice
Harry Hopkins Frances Perkins Creating the
U.S. Welfare State
Mary van Kleeck Bertha Reynolds Leaders of the
Rank File Movement
Whitney Young Dorothy Height Leaders of Civil
Rights Movement
Richard Cloward Frances Fox Piven Forging the
Welfare Rights Movement
Social Justice Social Policy A Synthesis for
the 21st Century
  • Hold vulnerable groups harmless
  • Recognize collective responsibility
    inter-dependence (nationally globally)
  • Prioritize prevention over remediation
  • Stress multiple forms of helping access
  • Emphasize universal rights and unique needs
  • Promote greater democratic participation

21st C. Issues for Policy Practice
  1. How can we create a socially just society when
    we disagree about what it implies?
  2. How can we achieve social justice when
    governments have less power influence and money
    increasingly controls politics?
  3. Can we achieve this goal within existing
    institutions? Should we create new ones?
  4. How can our scholarship inform our efforts to
    work for social change?

Assumptions about Social Justice Practice
  • Social justice issues are always present
  • Social justice is complex, fluid, evolving,
    conflict-laden, subjective, dynamic
  • Definitions of social justice must be positive
    beyond ending injustice.
  • Social injustice takes different forms in
    different contexts.
  • Social justice is never achieved for all time.
    It requires ongoing struggle.

Q Is social justice practice just good social
work practice?
  • A No Social justice practice refers more
    broadly to social action in the context of
    unequal power relations.

Social Justice Practice Emphases
  • Educational aspects of all our work
  • Develop critical consciousness analysis
  • Integrate marginalized groups
  • Create diverse, multicultural, sustainable
    coalitions organizations
  • Use community-based action research
  • Develop ongoing support mechanisms

Implications for Practice
  • Develop a positive vision of change.
  • Infuse socially just goals socially just
    processes in all aspects of our work
  • Recognize roles of history, context, power
  • Negotiate boundaries conflict. Be prepared for
    resistance to change.
  • Use multiple analytic frames.
  • Attend to social locations of actors.
  • Be aware of how theory and knowledge can create
    or sustain injustices.

Figure one Critical Analyses
People/organization/community with whom you work
Figure Two Praxis and Critical Consciousness
People/organization/community with whom you
Figure Three Dimensions of Practice
Monitor Evaluate
  • People/organization/
  • community you work with

Figure 4. Dimensions of Social Justice Practice
Attention to Power
Critical Consciousness Reflect/Analyze
Critical Consciousness Reflect/Analyze
Attention to Power
Monitor Evaluate
An Obstacle OvercomingSocial Works Master
  • Reinforced by professional organizations
  • Accepts institutional status quo as a given
  • Shapes professions interpretation of its past
  • Infuses SW theory, research practice
  • Masks growing social control function of SW
  • Silences or marginalizes counter-narratives
  • Makes social work increasingly apolitical
  • Result Rhetoric is change-oriented while
    practice focuses largely on adaptation.

Implications for Theory
  • Linear view of peoples bio-psycho-social
    spiritual needs
  • Universal, static hierarchy of needs. Defines
    other as deviant.
  • Focuses on satisfaction of individual needs
  • Assumes a benign individual-environment
    relationship with fixed systems boundaries
  • Assumes well-being is natural state of people
  • Neglects influence of history, race, class, etc.

Implications for Practice
  • Uses expertise to control worker/client
  • Devalues knowledge based on experience labels
    knowledge based on observation as science
  • Restricts problems to the private domain.
  • Increases likelihood of blaming people for their
  • Focusing on resiliency not change

Implications for Research
  • Rationalizes current emphasis on evidence-based
    practice (EBP).
  • Self-preservation in neo-liberal context
  • Reflects a deterministic version of rationality
  • Affirms structural status quo
  • Definitions reflect unacknowledged biases (e.g.,
    evidence, knowledge, knowing)

SW Practice as a PotentialCounter-Narrative of
  • Historical role
  • Reorient SWs goals towards elimination of
    oppression creation of egalitarian society
  • Challenge prevailing practice assumptions
  • Develop alternative frameworks theories
  • Pose different research questions
  • Clarify ambiguous concepts and vocabulary
  • Forge new alliances create new SW roles
  • New partnerships to pursue social justice.

Goals of a Counter-Narrative
  • Short-term
  • Shape policy practice in pursuit of clients
  • Encourage resistance at intellectual practice
  • Help people survive, find meaning, become aware
    of injustice and work for justice.
  • Help oppressed communities exercise dignity
    agency in dehumanizing circumstances.
  • Long-term
  • Forge a new social discourse
  • Rebuild the American community promote a
    socially just society

To Rebuild Community
  • Organize Within and Across Boundaries
  • Blend Issue and Identity-Based Approaches
  • Focus on Expanding Participation Create Diverse
    Means for People to Participate
  • Surface and Deal with Power Conflict
  • Forge Diverse Coalitions and Ally-ships
  • Infuse Global Perspectives and International
    Influences into all Aspects of Practice

To Strengthen our Organizations
  • Create and Strengthen Social Capital
  • Accept Different Styles of Leadership
  • Use Socially Just Decision-making Processes
  • Create Socially Just Organizational Cultures
  • Deal w/Intra Inter-organizational conflict
  • Find New Just Ways to Use Technology

To Develop Socially Just Research
  • Overall
  • Shift emphasis from research on interventions
    that address symptoms to analysis of the
    relationship between structural changes and
    increasing socio-economic inequality.
  • Investigate
  • Impact of cutbacks in different communities
  • Impact of new welfare regime on workers
  • Impact of new welfare regime on nonprofits
  • Comparative effectiveness of new technologies
  • Comparative effective of practice models on
    marginalized disenfranchised communities

Questions for the Future
  • Who should bear the social costs of economic and
    environmental changes?
  • Which concepts of social justice will guide the
    creation of national policies?
  • What values will unite a diverse society?
  • What roles should the state, NGOs, and the
    private sector play?

Our Challenge
  • Rapid changes in the environment of social policy
    practice will require us to
  • -- Reexamine our basic assumptions
  • -- Reformulate our practice concepts skills
  • -- Clarify the meaning of our core values
  • -- Use research to promote our those values
  • IF
  • We are to help create a socially just society.

Thank You for Your Attention!
  • 410-706-5088