The Politics of Representation: Social Work Lessons From the Advocacy Planning Movement

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The Politics of Representation: Social Work Lessons From the Advocacy Planning Movement In urban planning's new political awareness, representation became a social responsibility issue. This new understanding of politics and social responsibility in urban planning may have brought boundary interaction between planners and other professions, such as social work… Introduction In his 1995 article, Andrew Abbott explores his evolving conception of the social work profession. As we approach the new millennium, Abbott's conception becomes strikingly relevant. In brief review, Abbott's first notion posits that social work is a profession of interstitiality. In this context, social workers translate and mediate between collogues in…show more content…
Although he suggests both volatility and vulnerability for the social work profession, he downplays the significance - saying that social work is not unique in this regard. Abbott's final assertion is that while social workers are engaged along multi-professional boarders, social work has historically lacked a "professional purity." Abbott's review of social work profession's past is useful, but where can it lead the social work profession in the future? If the profession is pushing for purity, will it lose members to neighboring professions, as suggested in Abbott's notions of evolving boundaries? How have these evolving boundaries affected other professions and what lessons can the social work profession learn? Reviewing the advocacy planning movement in the modern American urban planning profession, beginning in the early 1960s, can provide useful perspectives of Abbott's theme of intraprofessional and interprofessional relations. In this movement, we see a highly technical ("pure") profession of physical planning become aware of the inherently political nature of its work. In particular, the planning profession's notion of "the common good" was challenged. As Martin Wachs (1985, p. 55) quotes Norton Long, "The question is not whether planning will reflect politics, but whose politics will it

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