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Working with Class: Social Workers and the Politics of Middle-Class Identityby Daniel J. Walkowitz
Synopses & Reviews
Polls tell us that most Americans—whether they earn $20,000 or $200,000 a year—think of themselves as middle class. As this phenomenon suggests, "middle class" is a category whose definition is not necessarily self-evident. In this book, historian Daniel Walkowitz approaches the question of what it means to be middle class from an innovative angle. Focusing on the history of social workers—who daily patrol the boundaries of class—he examines the changed and contested meaning of the term over the last one hundred years.
Walkowitz uses the study of social workers to explore the interplay of race, ethnicity, and gender with class. He examines the trade union movement within the mostly female field of social work and looks at how a paradigmatic conflict between blacks and Jews in New York City during the 1960s shaped late-twentieth-century social policy concerning work, opportunity, and entitlements. In all, this is a story about the ways race and gender divisions in American society have underlain the confusion about the identity and role of the middle class.
[This] book should become one of the touchstone monographs on American social work.
American Historical Review [A]n important contribution to the historical literature on the fate of radicalism in American society.
Richard A. Cloward, New Labor Forum Walkowitz writes with a special sensitivity to the ways in which race and gender influenced events.
Labor History It is an important contribution to the historical literature on the fate of radicalism in American society.
New Labor Forum A trenchant critique of the trajectory of social work.
Stanley Aronowitz The Nation
This study of social work and social workers illuminates the interplay of race, ethnicity, and gender in the formation of middle-class identity.
About the Author
A labor historian and filmmaker, Daniel J. Walkowitz is director of the Metropolitan Studies Program and professor of history at New York University.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Locating the Middle Class
Part One: The Professionalizing Project
1. The Invention of the Social Worker
2. The Professionalization of the Caseworker
3. The Making of a Feminine Professional Identity
Part Two: The Middle-Class Worker
4. The Professional Worker in the Public Sector
5. The Professional Worker in the Private Sector
6. The Evisceration of the Professional Worker Identity
Part Three: Race and the Classless Class
7. Race and the Modern Professional
8. Jews, Blacks, and a Counternarrative for the Middle Class
Epilogue: Work and the Politics of the Middle Class
Table A.1. Social Workers by Gender and Workplace in the United States and New York City, 1910-1970
Table A.2. Religious and Charity Workers in the United States, 1910
Table A.3. Religious and Charity Workers in New York City, 1910
Table A.4. JBG Budget Sources, 1944-1956
Table A.5. African American Social Workers in the United States and New York City, 1910-1960
Table A.6. Social Workers and Welfare Service Aides in the New York City Metropolitan Area, 1980
Table A.7. Median Annual Earnings and Total Family Income by Gender and Race in the United States, 1969
Table A.8. Social Workers by Gender, Hispanic Origin, and Race in the New York City Metropolitan Area, 1990
Table A.9. Therapists by Gender, Hispanic Origin, and Race in the United States, 1990
3.1. Sketch contrasting the image of the lithe social worker as flapper with that of the overweight, somewhat surly client
3.2. Middle-class social worker luxuriates in simple elegance, enjoying a good book
3.3. Sketch illustrating the contradictions in social worker leisure
3.4. Sketch suggesting that in her leisure time the last thing this single social worker wants to hear are complaints about the sort of woman with whom social workers deal on a daily basis
5.1. "Manly" depiction of a white-collar woman and blue-collar men
5.2. "Manly" workers organize and assert their rights
5.3. Sketch ridiculing social investigators who persisted in clinging to a professional ideology
5.4. Skit depicting two custodians discussing social workers
6.1. Photograph of DW commissioner Raymond M. Hilliard demonstrating "that a family of six can get by on $96 a month"
6.2. A 1945 poll by the Cleveland Welfare Council suggested that the stereotypes shown in this sketch were false
7.1. Photograph showing the carefully orchestrated interracialism at the DW's February 1950 Negro History Week celebration
7.2. DW choristers sing at the central office Christmas party, December 1949
7.3. Female social investigators strut their gender while male executives march behind them in the 1951 DW Loyalty Day parade
7.4. This teacher conformed to the straitlaced image of the teacher or social worker in 1950s popular culture
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