As state and city governments everywhere confront the fiscal and political consequences of recession and federal abandonment, bureaucratically based professionals such as social workers, school teachers, and nurses must attend to the social and physical wreckage. They do so with fewer resources and less public sympathy. "Accountability" is now the watchword, and public mistrust has shifted from the fear of "welfare chiselers" to concern about overly indulgent service workers. Universally, one hears that clients, students, patients, are more psychologically damaged, less educationally prepared, sicker. Despite claims about the "thousand points of light," community resources are flickering and families are disintegrating under the weight of the "caregiver burden."
Our society is in crisis and social service workers are strategically and painfully positioned to see it. But do they? And, if they do, how do they explain it? What is their response? Indeed, how should they respond? Some of these questions are addressed indirectly, quantitatively, and, in many respects, atheoretically in Linda Cherry Reeser's and my recent book Professionalization and Activism in Social Work: the 60's, the 80's and the Future (Columbia University Press, 1990).
In the present work, Michael Fabricant and Steve Burghardt face these difficult questions directly. In so doing, they employ a neo-Marxist theoretical perspective and a qualitative research methodology. More specifically, their study represents a courageous attempt to describe and explain the crisis of the welfare state to those who are the inadvertent carriers of the "bad news."
Told from the alternating perspectives of political theorists and frontline workers, the book is doubly "courageous" because the former are generally loath to test their theories against the daily experience of those in the trenches and because the latter are generally unaware of, uninterested in, and curiously insulated from the broader political and economic significance of their work. Possibly, they would prefer not to know.
Their lack of political consciousness (or some would say "false