International Summer University in Social Work 

Ethical Social Work Practice in a Globalizing yet Polarizing World

Prof. Steven Sek-yum NGAI — Chinese University of Hong Kong

Globalization has been created as a force for change by capitalist entrepreneurs, who have allied themselves with governments and international organizations to find new arenas for profitable exploitation. These changes include opening up public services to private providers, emphasizing value for money, reasserting managerial control over caring professionals, and introducing new forms of governance. As a result, the relationship between citizens and the state has been undergoing profound alteration. These changes have reduced the extent to which the state accepts responsibility for the welfare of its individual citizens, and have led to increasing levels of social exclusion and escalating poverty gaps both within and between countries. This presentation contends that social work needs a new vision that will advance active citizenship for marginalized populations in the existing globalizing yet polarizing social order. The current technologies of governance have produced enormous waste of human talents and have caused untold suffering. These arrangements have to be replaced by ones that enable people to treat one another with dignity and that respect the earth’s physical and social resources as the heritage of each individual and community on the planet. This is the basis of a new, empowering vision of social work. Social workers need to free themselves from the shackles of a government-imposed bureaucratic rationality that has turned them into bureau-technocrats. They need to stand alongside dispossessed populations, working for the emancipation of all of the world’s inhabitants.

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