Burton Gummer, Ph.D., Professor
SOCIAL WELFARE administration has its origins in the Charities Organization Societies, which makes it the oldest practice modality in the profession. Naturally, in the nearly century and a half since the first social welfare administrators attempted to bring order to the charitable field, there have been a number of theories and practice models that have sought to guide the work of administrators. The present volume by Professor David Austin is the latest effort, and in my opinion one of the best, at providing administrators and students of administration with ways for understanding the theory and practice of contemporary social welfare administration.
I imagine that most prospective readers are not going to believe this, but for someone who's interested in this field, this book is a page-turner. Austin's command of the material is truly impressive. More importantly, he's been thinking about these ideas for a long time (at least twenty years) and has integrated and synthesized the material into an interesting “story” about social welfare management. Professor Austin is one of the finest scholars in this field. His particular strength is to combine “big think” (theoretical and conceptual approaches) with first hand knowledge of social welfare organizations. His writing is lucid, his thinking is clear, and he demonstrates an excellent command of the issues in the areas he writes about.
My understanding of the author's central theme comes from a statement he makes at the beginning of the book, in which he says that his perspective is to view the human service organization “as a social system which has very special connections to the society of which it is a part.” This is a perspective that Austin has pursued over a number of years, beginning with his 1981 article on social services as “public goods.” This