Social Justice and the Role of Social Work
Social and economic justice occurs when "all members of a society share equally in the social order, secure an equitable consideration of resources and opportunities, and enjoy their full benefit of civil liberties" (DuBois & Krogsrud Miley, 1996; p.15). An easier way to understand the concept of social and economic justice may be to consider what is a lack of justice: "when societies do not accord citizens equity and equality and when they violate their citizens' human and civil rights" (DuBois & Krogsrud Miley, 1996; p.16).
Social injustice could include any social problem-domestic violence, inadequate healthcare, or substance abuse. Social justice ideally addresses these problems, but also addresses social issues-the increasing aging population, education expenses, and environmental concerns.
Social workers' responsibility regarding social and economic justice is formally defined in the NASW Code of Ethics (May 1988 version). The last section of the Code of Ethics, "the social worker's ethical responsibility to society," states that "[t]he social worker should promote the general welfare of society." More specifically, it states "[t]he social worker should advocate changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions and to promote social justice." It is clear then that social workers are obligated to promote social justice - to empower people individually and collectively.
This stipulation is congruent with my own personal beliefs about social justice. Influenced by my values based in Christianity and humanism (yes, two philosophies that contradict each other), I feel action to promote social justice is a personal responsibility. In the past, I have taken limited action in the areas of abortion, political prisoners, environmental issues, and pornography. My undergraduate education in social work has introduced me to the injustices against persons who are elderly, are of a...