The Anatomy of Social Welfare
What is this thing, this "social welfare,"
this strange juxtaposition of undefinable words?
It is charity, of course,
Yet something more, something different,
Something often better (yet sometimes worse).
It is public aid and private charity,
Not one's wages;
Not fringe benefits supplied in lieu of wages.
Social services, yes; and sometimes—but
Not always—social insurance.
Not education, not the judge and jury,
Never four walls and bars and scowling faces;
Not the organized machinery or locale of
Sunday worship (though from this scene
Derives motivation to "do good.").
"Social welfare is special services supplied
And material assistance given
By all or part of society to
A human being
Thought to be in need."
FEW EXPRESSIONS in the United States are heard so often, written so frequently, and accepted so widely as the words "social welfare." They seem to communicate.Yet at the same time, few terms transfer ideas from one person to another so inexactly, can be made to cover so many irrelevant subjects, or arouse such explosive emotions.
When this is said, one must add in haste that many of the words in daily use in the field of social work are not to be found in the writings or conversation of leaders in public or civic life. The vocabulary of the social-service field, enlarged by its contact with psychiatry and even elementary abnormal psychology, is most alarming to the layman. However, this is not the place to get involved in the mysteries of social-work linguistics.