Nothing to fear but fear: social work in cold war Canada, 1945-1960

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Since the beginning of the social work profession in the Settlement House and Charity Organization Society movements debate has persisted around their respective emphasis on social reform versus technical expertise. Porter Lee defined this debate as, "the process of professionalizing [which] caused social work to shift from "cause" to "function", that is, to move from advocating reform to rendering a technical service efficiently'' (in Abramovitz, 1998, p. 519). Some writers contend that social reform had been de-emphasized and mostly displaced by professionalism and practice that have become associated with conventional social work particularly during the McCarthy era (1945-1960) in the United States (Reisch and Andrews, 2001). Little has been written or discussed about the effects of anti-Communism on social work activities in Canada. The purpose of this study is to reveal how the profession and the activities of politically left social workers in their capacity as social workers were affected by the anti-Communism of the early Cold War period, 1945-1960. The research design combined critical theory with a qualitative and historical research methodology. Oral interviews were conducted with six former political social workers. A thematic framework emerged from the oral interviews which helped to identify political social workers in primary and secondary materials. A chronology of political social work is presented within the context of mainstream social work practice. Major findings of this research are that the profession of social work, social work practice and social work theory were affected by anti-Communism and the promotion of liberal capitalism in the immediate post-World War II period in Canada. All the key informants were targets of red-baiting and/or blacklisting, however, they report that they did not experience negative consequences professionally. Other political social workers identified in primary and secondary materials appeared to have experienced more severe consequences. Further research is needed to learn more about the nature of the anti-Communism that was experienced by individual social workers. The key informants all agreed that social work is on another historical edge and they relate their political insight to the antisocial aspects of economic globalization.
Bibliography: p. 363-397
Lewey, L. L. (2006). Nothing to fear but fear: social work in cold war Canada, 1945-1960 (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/412