Future of Social Work Theory and Practice
When, during the
depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt
discussed the proposal for a social security program in the
United States with his social service advisor, Harry Hopkins,
he is said to have remarked that although the program would
not solve problems immediately, it would prove itself in the
long run. Harry Hopkins is said to have replied: "But
Mr. President, people eat in the short run."
The social work
profession has always been ambivalent about how to divide
time, personnel, knowledge and resources between dealing with
current pressing problems, and attacking the conditions, which
create those problems. At times the emphasis has been on one
side, and at other times on the other. The reason for such
ambivalence and swings in opinion is, of course, the fact
that social work theory and practice cannot be divorced from
the economic, social, physical, governmental and ideological
world in which they exist, and this is constantly changing.
Therefore, whether planned or not, change takes place.
For example, a search of the indices of two American social
work journals for the years, 1977, 1987 and 1997 finds that
twenty years ago social workers there were writing about networking,
systems theory, behavior modification, licensing, revenue
sharing, social action, radical social work, encounter groups
and role playing.
Ten years later almost all of these had disappeared from the
indices and the new terms being used were deinstitutionalization,
income testing, burnout and malpractice -- none of which were
found ten years previously, nor do they appear ten years later.
In 1997 terms such as social constructionism, disinvestment,
ecology, managed care, welfare reform and nonprofit organizations
appear for the first time.
Even forms of
therapy change in popularity. In 1987 we find cognitive therapy,
transactional analysis, crisis intervention, short-term therapy,
family therapy and group therapy mentioned. Not only are these
unnoted in 1997, but there appear for the first time locus
of control, mediation, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-help/empowerment,
focus groups, and narrative therapy. A current British journal
speaks of post-modern social work, using terms like postfordism,
consumerist ideas, competence-based learning, the contract
culture, capacity building, anti-oppressive practices and
reflexivity -- terms never heard of twenty or even ten years
It will be recognized, of course, that not all social work
theory and practice has been changed in the last twenty years,
nor are all the changes that have taken place reflected in
the indices and articles mentioned. Much of what social workers
do is unrecorded, and if recorded, not published; and if published,
not necessarily in the journals discussed.
Not only do ideas
emerge and disappear as attitudes, activities, and situations
change, but the tools with which these are dealt also change.
That clients should have access to what the social worker
writes in their records would have been considered irresponsible
practice and a violation of confidentiality at one time, but
today is considered not only the client's right, but good
Similarly, insofar as research is concerned, it is doubtful
that a researcher under the age of, say, forty would recognize
an IBM punchcard if he or she saw one, let alone a Fortram
sheet - both of which were once the core tools of empirical
studies. Further, the pace of change is also increasing. It
has been noted that during the years of the horse, people
had centuries to adapt to change. In the time of the automobile,
people had decades to change. Today, in the time of computers,
we may have a weekend to adapt.
Again, let me emphasize that although some changes occur because
things become unfashionable, or because some fads are replaced
by newer ones, many variations in social work practice reflect
real adaptability to changing societal situations. Unfortunately,
change in social work practice, and even more so in social
work education, tends to be reactive, rather than proactive.
Most changes in curricula occur because social, governmental
or personal situations have changed, and social work practice
must be changed to meet them. Rarely is a curriculum constructed
with an eye toward what practice will be like in the future.
And yet, students entering at about age twenty or so will
probably practice until age sixty or more - a forty year period
in which many changes will take place, some of which can be
confidently predicted today.
People have been trying to foretell the future from the earliest
days of recorded history. In some places and at some times
medicine men and shamans, witch doctors and seers were supplemented
by inanimate objects, of which the Greek oracle at Delphi
is perhaps the best known. However, the basis of much Greek
tragedy lies in the fact that Cassandra always predicted correctly,
and that her predictions were invariably ignored. Many of
the Hebrew prophets discussed events to come, some at the
end of time, but most for shorter periods. The Middle Ages
saw Nostradamus reading the stars and making predictions from
them -- a tradition that continues both in modern astrology
and in continuing quotations from that medieval astrologer.
Today, the advent of every new year is marked by published
predictions by better- and lesser-known seers, whose occasional
coincidental triumphs are trumpeted, while their many failures
are ignored. During the last fifty years, however, there has
grown up a school of thought, if not a discipline, which makes
use of more rational, exact and replicable measures of the
future. Over the course of time, these measures have come
to include the following:
CONSENSUS OF EXPERTS
is sometimes derived by very controlled methods, such as the
Delphi method, or polls of Nobel Prize winners. In other cases,
consensus is seen in published works, conference papers, newspaper
articles, and informal correspondence. Consensus, of course,
may be overwhelming, but not necessarily unanimous. Although
there is very widespread consensus that increase of the ozone
gap will result in atmospheric -- and thus other -- changes,
there are nevertheless dissenters to this prediction.
This method, favored
by economists, uses mathematical equations to represent the
real world (or the part being studied), with deliberate changes
made in input variables to indicate the different results
to be expected. Many predictions concerning economic futures
are the result of such mathematical manipulations.
Akin to mathematical
models, computer simulations make it possible to deal with
very large numbers of variables, and to determine how a change
-- even a minute change -- in any one or several of them will
affect all the others, and thus the results being predicted.
This method analyzes
the content of contemporary publications, research papers,
and other written material, from which trends and predictions
These are imaginary projections into the future, often dealing
with situations not actually anticipated or being predicted.
They are the subject of free association and thought, and
are usually referred to as science fiction. Such imaginations
may, however, become self-fulfilling prophecies, as persons
reading the scenarios decide to make them come true.
Thus, the novels
of Jules Verne stimulated many readers to think about submarines,
rapid transportation, and space travel for the first time,
and in some cases to begin to work on these ideas. Similarly,
utopian novels planted the seeds for some social structures
and activities now extant. Indeed, many of the inventions
and changes outlined in relatively recent science-fiction
writing, and even comic strips, have become realities -- space
stations, wristwatch radios, laser beams, and many others.
of predicting the future is to examine what has happened in
other places and/or other times when the current situation
seemed similar. The rise of religious fundamentalism; unexpected
scientific breakthroughs; a growing gap between the very rich
and the very poor - all of these have happened before, and
a look back provides a basis for a look forward.
Perhaps the most-often-used method of future prediction is
the extension of current trends into the future. Some such
predictions are based upon present reality. The continuing
growth in the elderly population to be expected in the future
is not based on expectations of changing birth rates, but
upon the population pyramid that presently exists and on the
lengthening of life expectancy, which is still occurring.
Most serious predictions
today are based upon a combination of various methods. For
example, trend projection -- if unchecked -- would indicate
that a five foot tall fifteen year-old who grew two inches
in each of the last two years would at age forty be more than
nine feet tall. However, use of analogy and comparison of
what is known to happen in such cases bends trend projection
on the above methods do not often try to indicate a specific
result at a given time. Rather, ranges of possible changes
within alternative time frames are usually presented. Sometimes
this is presented in terms of probability - for example, that
there is an eighty to ninety percent chance that a given change
will take place. Of course, some expected changes are more
important than others, just as some are more probable than
others. It is therefore possible to weigh the possibility
of change against the importance of the change, in somewhat
the following manner:
but not probable
A result that
will be extremely important deserves attention and action
even if the possibility of its occurrence is not probable;
conversely, a result that is almost certain to occur, but
whose consequences will be trivial, does not call for concentrated
planning or action.
has been the track record of future predictions? Of the 134
inventions or changes envisioned by George Orwell in 1946
as occurring by 1984, over a hundred did indeed come to pass,
and more have been added in the meantime. In an article in
the1997 issue of The Futurist it was found that sixty eight
percent of the predictions made thirty years ago had come
Not only is it
possible to foretell changes, it is also possible to influence
them. At the Conference of the International Council on Social
Welfare, held in Jerusalem in 1998, representatives of four
non-governmental worldwide organizations dedicated to change
presented their methods of operation. These included UNICEF,
which works through publicity and pressure; Greenpeace, which
is an activist organization; the World Health Organization,
which teaches, measures, and engages in start-up operations;
and the International Monetary Fund, which uses financial
pressure. There are many other organizations, such as those
dedicated to saving endangered species and those opposed to
child labor, that have had at least partial success in achieving
change, and influencing the future.
change, I want to make a distinction between those that are
referred to as developed, or industrialized, or urbanized
countries, and those called developing, agricultural or rural.
Although some changes, such as ecological ones, or globalization,
or urbanization, affect every country; and although some problems,
such as poverty and unemployment, are universal, the differences
between the two worlds, so to speak, make it almost impossible
to generalize about them. As one example, how could one compare
English-speaking Australia, with its physical, social, economic,
and governmental infrastructure one of the most advanced in
the world, with its neighbor, Papua/New Guinea, with only
five hundred thousand inhabitants and over seven hundred and
fifty languages - one third of the world's total tongues?
Papua/New Guinea has no electricity in the interior of the
country, and transportation and communication difficulties
are so great that it was not until 1936 that some groups saw
non-Papuans for the first time. Therefore, this paper is primarily
concerned with the developed nations, using the others only
for purposes of comparison. Further, although I will separate
out specific areas for heuristic purposes, in reality everything
is connected to everything else. However, due to limits of
time, space and your patience, I will necessarily limit myself
to speaking about seven areas, all of them subsumed, for simplicity,
under the letter "m." Maturity, mass movement, mandated
behavior, materialism, modernization, mentality, but maybe
The future concerning
the elderly is not just a guess. Those who are already old
and those who will become old are alive, and their life expectancies
can be predicted. As life expectancy continues to extend,
due to improvements in sanitation, diet, medicine and housing,
among other things, so will the number of the aged. In the
sixteenth century B. C., life expectancy in Egypt was only
fifteen years, primarily due to the high rate of infant deaths.
In 1700, life expectancy in Europe was thirty-three years.
In 1950, it was sixty-six years. In 1990, it was over seventy-four
years. It is currently being predicted, more or less seriously,
that normal life will soon end somewhere between one hundred
twenty and one hundred thirty years. It should be noted that
in the developing countries, men tend to live longer than
women, whereas in the developed world, the reverse is true.
Of course, the
age at which someone becomes elderly can only be drawn arbitrarily,
and for most practical purposes this is considered to be the
age at which pensions are paid. When Chancellor Bismarck established
one of the first social security programs in Germany in the
1880s, he set age sixty-five as the personable age. Since
not many people then lived to that age, the program was economically
safe. In any case, sixty-five became and has remained the
most popular age for the beginning of old age pensions in
the developed countries, even though life expectancy has lengthened
considerably in the meantime.
But these programs
account for only twenty-eight percent of the old-age pension
programs in the world. In developing countries, whose programs
constitute seventy-one percent of the world's total, life
expectancy is much shorter. In many African countries life
expectancy may be as short as age thirty-three, as in Sierre
Leone, or forty-one, in Guinea-Bassou, or forty-three, as
in Burundi, Gambia and Swaziland. Consequently, sixty is the
most common personable age in developing countries. However,
thirty countries (mostly in Africa), or nineteen percent of
the world total, pay pensions from age fifty-five. There are
also some countries that begin paying pensions at age fifty,
although this is often limited to the "prematurely aged,"
or people in hazardous occupations. A few programs pay pensions
from age forty-five, but this is usually contingent upon actual
retirement from employment or following a sustained period
of unemployment. The only country in which retirement pay
without conditions begins at age forty is the small Pacific
island of Kiribati.
There are other
interesting exceptions to the age factor. In Sri Lanka, a
female employee who gets married is entitled to a pension,
and in the Czech Republic, retirement age is proportionately
lowered for women as they have a number of children. Generally
speaking, however, there seems to be a linkage between life
expectancy and retirement age.
Despite the fact
that full pensions are paid to males at age sixty-five in
the United States, almost seventy percent of American males
have now retired early, and over ninety percent are currently
giving up three years salary and twenty percent of their pensions
for life by taking early retirement at age sixty-two. This
raises some questions about counting the aged in society as
only those sixty-five and older. Indeed, some organizations
define the aged differently. The American Association of Retired
Persons - the largest voluntary organization in the world
-- accepts members from age fifty-five, as do Elderhostel
study courses. There is even the humorous but telling characterization
of the elderly as divided into four groups: the go-gos; the
go-slows; the slow-slows; and the no-gos. In any case, if
old age is considered to begin earlier than age sixty-five,
then the number of the elderly in society today, and to be
expected in the future, must be greatly enlarged.
Regardless of how they are defined, one of the major demographic
changes in future society will be the growth of the older
population, and most of them will be more healthy than they
are today. This has many implications both from institutional
and personal points-of-view. On one hand, many more years
of non-working time for the healthy majority of the aged may
result in an enormous increase in recreational activities.
There has already been a steady increase in travel by the
aged, including cruises, and many recreational firms and organizations
are targeting the elderly as their best potential source of
clients. There has also been an increase in educational opportunities
for senior citizens, including the growth of programs such
as Elderhostel in the United States, which hosted a quarter
million people in two thousand sites throughout the world
in 1998; and in Europe, programs such as TALIS (Third Age
Learning International Studies); EAEA (European Association
for the Education of Adults); and AEG (Association for Educational
Gerontology). In short, insofar as economic problems are concerned,
social workers may be little needed by the Woopies (Well Off
However, for some
there will be problems associated directly with aging. For
example, there are few programs to prepare people for what
have been called "transformations of identity,"
of which retirement is one, and which for some people may
be traumatic. Loss of a time schedule, estrangement from familiar
people and places at work, sudden large increases in amounts
of free time - all of these cause at least temporary problems
for many people, and especially for workaholics. In addition,
there may be difficulties arising from changes in the family
constellation - i.e., from being the active head of the family
to being just another member, or even becoming dependent on
These are the
kinds of problems with which social workers will be increasingly
concerned, with the added complication that such problems
do not lend themselves well to the one-to-one social casework
method in which many social workers have been trained, nor
do psychiatric methods, which many social workers favor, offer
much help. These problems revolve more around relationships
and self-images, necessitating mutual support groups, self-help
groups, and introduction to new areas of activity, such as
overcoming fear of computers with which the elderly are said
to be afflicted.
For the non-wealthy
aged, however, problems of income maintenance may become more
intense. As it is, the largest single group among the poor
in most countries is the elderly population. Conversely, in
some countries the majority of the aged are poor. For example,
it is estimated that the proportion of older people with incomes
less than sixty percent of the average income ranges from
around six percent in the Netherlands and fifteen percent
in Sweden to thirty-four percent in the United States and
fifty-eight percent in Australia. As governments struggle
with the problem of how to maintain promised pension payments
in the face of growing beneficiaries and declining contributors,
the very real fear of decreased pension payments causes anxiety
among the elderly. The problem of government pensions will
probably become more difficult, since no life insurance or
pension problem in the world anticipated that people would
live to age eighty or more. Indeed, the fastest growing group
among the aged are the over-eighty-fives.
of wealth, there are always personal and familial problems.
Insofar as the latter are concerned, lengthening life expectancy
is increasingly making an impact on families. There are, for
example, three-generation families, and - increasingly - four
and even five generation families. Three-generation families
are sometimes referred to as "sandwich" families,
since the parents are between the children and the grandparents,
and may be caregivers for both. For the older family members,
there may be further complications as their children (the
parents of their grandchildren) remarry, either via divorce
or widow(er)hood. The relationship to the "new"
family members; their responsibility for them, in both financial
and other terms; and their relationship to the other set or
sets of grandparents becomes complicated. Then there are the
"second chance" or "boomerang" grandparents,
whose child, children, or grandchildren come back to live
with them after a divorce or a death. Finally, in this area,
there is the probability that children, and even grandchildren,
will die before the grandparent does. This has been called,
"the most distressing and long-lasting of all griefs
- that for the loss of a grown child."
Sex among the
elderly has never been a hot topic of conversation or of social
work education, and efforts to introduce it usually evoke
giggles and jokes. But, George Bernard Shaw was asked by a
reporter on his eightieth birthday how it felt to be no longer
interested in the opposite sex. His reply was: "I'll
let you know." On a more serious note, marriage and remarriage
among the elderly is now so common that two consequences have
already been remarked.
One is the financial
aspect. Pre-nuptial agreements that relieve the anxiety of
the children on either side concerning inheritances are common.
Further, more and more older couples are living together without
formalizing the situation with a marriage. Some of this arises
from the inheritance question, where laws arbitrarily give
the surviving spouse a share of the estate; and some from
the pension structure, whereby a couple receives less support
than two single people, even if the latter are living together.
The other aspect
of marriage among the elderly arises from the phenomenon noted
previously, that women tend to outlive men. (Incidentally,
one reason which has been advanced for this differential is
the greater amount of cigarette smoking among men.) This means
that the number of elderly widowers and divorced men will
be much smaller than the number of widows and divorcees. At
the end of this century, for every one hundred men over age
sixty-five, there will be one hundred and fifty women. Among
those over eighty-four, there will be 254 women for every
hundred men. Fifty percent of all American women over sixty-five
are widows, and nearly eighty percent of all married women
will become widows.
A constantly growing
number of older people, in which women progressively outnumber
men, should lead to new societal living arrangements, the
structure of which is so far difficult to perceive. Unfortunately,
very little research and even less planning seems to be taking
place in this area.
The health problem
among the elderly is somewhat the same. Most of the elderly
will be much healthier than their predecessors we, and for
a much longer time. As medical science continues to progress,
many of the ills afflicting the current elderly will be obviated
or easily cured. For example, cataract operations which were
once almost major surgery, followed by a long period in which
the head could not be moved, has become an in-office procedure
using non-invasive local anesthesia, laser beams and next-day
recovery. Equal advances concerning other conditions will
undoubtedly follow. However, to the extent that such progress
is not made for those who suffer from long-term debilitating
diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis,
there will continue to be need for care over much longer periods
than in the past - twenty, thirty and even forty years. And
as medical technology advances, so do health-care costs. It
is not uncommon for people who have lived reasonably prosperous
lives to have all of their assets wiped out by a long-term
illness, or a complicated operation. This, despite the growth
of health insurance schemes of various kinds, including programs
like Medicare and Medicaid in the United States.
Given the expected
increase in the number of the aged and in the number of those
who will be needed to care for them, it is entirely unrealistic
to believe that there will ever be enough social workers to
fill these needs. Indeed, social workers are not even trained
to do so, since these carers are basically engaged in activities
of daily living, buying groceries, cooking meals, taking their
clients for walks, perhaps pushing wheelchairs, and so forth.
Insofar as those
who take care of the elderly are family members - most often
the eldest daughter - there seems to come a time when the
carer himself or herself needs care. With increasing frequency
there has arisen the phenomenon of the family member who is
caring for an elderly relative also becoming elderly - the
seventy-year old daughter taking care of a ninety-year old
mother, for instance - and needing care. Consequently, the
job of social work in dealing with the elderly will become
that of providing trainers, supervisors, and supporters of
the carers, whether these be family members, volunteers, or
recent method of trying to deal with this problem of shortage
of carers has been the growth of sheltered housing, or - as
it is sometimes called - "assisted living," for
the aged. People thus move into private rooms or apartments
in sheltered housing while still comparatively young and healthy,
and are offered the physical, social and medical support they
need as they age. In Israel, the law requires that sheltered
housing contain a nursing unit, but this is not true everywhere,
and the fear of inhabitants is that they will have to leave
if they become chronically ill. In
addition, such housing is usually quite expensive, and although
having much to commend it, is often not a good financial investment.
However, at the moment over a million Americans live in thirty
thousand assisted-living facilities, and more are built all
Arising from sheltered
housing there is now the option of sheltered neighborhoods.
In these instances, people remain in their own homes, but
there is a central administration, which provides household
repairers, shoppers, drivers, laundry, etc., for the people
in the neighborhood, as well as emergency switches and medical
trend is the use of paid carers who live with the older person
in his or her own home, thus obviating the need to change
locations, amenities, neighborhoods, etc. Many such carers
are from developing - or, at least, less developed - countries.
In Israel they are brought in legally, paid a minimum wage,
and have the protection of the social welfare and legal systems.
One result of the growth of this movement in Israel has been
a decrease in demand for sheltered housing, and a consequent
decrease in building it. Indeed, in many cases sheltered housing
is now being offered on more and more attractive terms to
meet the competition from foreign carers.
Part of the success
in using live-in carers arises from the fact that people become
very attached to their living quarters, neighborhoods, friends,
and so forth, and have no desire to change locations unless
absolutely necessary. Thus, the modal age for widows moving
into assisted housing is seventy-nine. Nevertheless, in the
future we can expect to find parents and their senior-citizen
children living in the same retirement homes.
The subject of
foreign carers leads us to the subject of immigration, migration
and refugees. Although there are commonalities among these
categories, there are also substantial differences. Insofar
as immigrants are concerned, their treatment ranges from the
American experience, where there is no governmental body charged
with this responsibility, to Australia, which has a well-developed
and experienced network of governmental and voluntary services
to aid immigrants. There is every reason to believe that immigration
will continue to rise in the future, both from less prosperous
to more prosperous countries, from regions subject to local
conflicts to more secure surroundings, and from rural to urban
In the United
States, for example, there are almost a million legal immigrants
a year, and almost half a million illegal immigrants. In 1970
five percent of the United States population was foreign-born,
and today that has risen to ten percent. Migrants, too, have
been and will continue to be imported from countries with
large, poor populations into those with relatively wealthier
citizens, especially as technology continues to bifurcate
the working force between low-paying low-status jobs and well-paid
upper-level jobs. The number of refugees will also continue
to grow into the foreseeable future, as tribal and ethnic
rivalries, riots and revolutions, and natural catastrophes
force people from their homes. Although there are many differences
in dealing with immigrants, migrants and refugees - some of
which will be discussed below -- these three aspects of mass
human movement have certain things in common, and one of these
is how they are dealt with in the country in which they find
There are countries,
which do not want or accept foreigners, or that restrict their
entry numerically, or according to categories. This would
have been true of Australia at one time, when no Orientals
were allowed entry. It is still true to a certain extent of
the United States, which has a numerical limit on new immigrants.
And it is certainly true of countries closing their borders
against refugees from nearby countries. Again, countries may
accept refugees, but keep them confined in specific areas
with no intention or attempt to absorb them.
as legal immigration is concerned, there seem to be three
major trends or ideologies concerning their absorption into
the host country:
| Assimilation | Melting Pot | Cultural Pluralism |
The heading called
assimilation, or absorption, or integration, has as its starting
point and its goal the changing of all groups and individuals
into representative members of the host community. This approach
says, in effect, we are us and you are them and you have to
become like us. Although the host community itself is invariably
made up of segments, groups, and regions that differ from
each other, the immigrant is subjected to social, legal, and
sometimes physical pressure to fit in. Institutions, training
courses, youth movements and other instruments of socialization,
including the educational system, are all brought to bear
for that purpose. The number of countries using this approach
is so great that it isn't useful to try to list them.
The second approach
says we are us and you are them, and we will influence each
other and meld together to form a new all of us. This has
been termed the melting pot theory, and although given lip-service
in all of the United States, is best exemplified in Hawaii,
with its mixture of native and imported cultures, and increasingly
in Israel with Russian, Ethiopian, and Islamic cultures merging
with the once-predominant European Anglo-Saxon elements.
The third approach,
termed cultural pluralism, or multiculturalism, says we are
us and you are them but we can all live peaceably side-by-side
under some general rules. Switzerland, with its Italian, French,
and German populations is an example.
You will recognize
that I have been speaking about groups and cultures as though
they were monolithic, and of course they aren't. In fact,
in dealing with people generally, and not just with immigrants,
it is well to remember Durkheim's famous dictum (and forgive
the sexism implied - I am simply quoting): "Every man
is like every other man; every man is like some other men;
every man is like no other man."
This implies that
each of these methods of absorption must be applied differently
to each aspect of the other's culture, and sometimes to individuals.
For example, take religion. Almost no country receiving immigrants
requires that once in place, they convert to another religion.
They may, it is true, place obstacles in the way of certain
religious groups, or give privileges to others; and voluntary
groups may encourage conversion, but change is neither a political,
legal, nor social requirement. Similarly, few countries have
experienced the birth of a syncretic religion made up of elements
of the old and the new beliefs, although they may influence
each other. Generally speaking, religion remains under the
head of cultural pluralism.
| Melting Pot | Cultural Pluralism |
|__________| _________|______X_______| Religion
On the other hand,
take driving practices:
Anyone who arrives from most of the other countries of the
world to Britain, Ireland, Australia, and a few other (benighted)
countries had better not demand respect for their cultural
pluralistic way of driving. If they don't change immediately
to driving on the left, they'll be dead wrong in more ways
| Melting Pot | Cultural Pluralism |
|__________| _________|______X_______| Religion
|____X_____| _________|______________| Driving
Again, take language:
Learn English in New Zealand to get along, get around, get
a job? Or learn English for the public while speaking the
native tongue at home? Raise the children in English, or the
native tongue, or both? Bilingual schools? Certain subjects
in the native tongue? French-speaking schools? Arabic-speaking
schools? Public or private? What languages? What is a language
(think of the Ebonics argument in the United States)? These
are not simple questions, and each answer reflects a belief
system that may or may not be shared by or functional for
the new immigrants:
| Melting Pot | Cultural Pluralism |
|__________| _________|______X_______| Religion
|____X_____| _________|______________| Driving
|____?_____| ____?____|______?________| Language
Or, take food:
Doesn't the vast array of restaurants in Dubrovnik indicate
the melting pot approach? But wait. Why do people from certain
sections arrive in Dubrovnik, where sheep, cows, pigs and
chickens are raised for food and slaughtered, and find themselves
arrested for doing the same with dogs or cats? In Israel,
importing non-kosher food is prohibited, and in some countries
Moslems have trouble finding halal food. So even here there
are weighty questions of custom, social pressure, laws, and
human as well as animal rights to be dealt with.
| Assimilation | Melting Pot | Cultural Pluralism |
|__________| _________|______X_______| Religion
|____X_____| _________|______________| Driving
|____?_____| ____?____|______?________| Language
|__________| ____X____|______________| Food
being discussed can be extended in a number of ways. For example,
there is a time factor. What has to be changed immediately,
like driving on the right? What should be given time to change,
like learning a language? And how much time? What should be
allowed or encouraged to remain, and for how long, if not
Insofar as the
time factor is concerned, a Swedish sociologist named Hansen,
observing immigration into the United States in the 1930s,
derived what is known as Hansen's Law:
grandparents wanted to forget, the grandchildren want to remember."
In essence, this
said that the first generation of immigrants wants so badly
to melt into the new culture that consciously or unconsciously
they try to cut themselves off from the culture of the old
country. For the second generation it is easier, but they
are still seen as the children of immigrants, and they have
mannerisms, beliefs, and customs taken from their parents.
The third generation, however, is so secure as part of the
country in which they were born that they can begin to look
for and at their ancestral roots without any fear that their
identity will be questioned. What Hansen did not predict is
that succeeding generations might even take fierce pride in
their ethnic roots, leading to competition and conflict among
In summary, many
aspects of immigrant culture involve very complicated questions
of individual and group rights, familial structure and authority,
ethics, and customs. For example, take the question of female
circumcision, which in some cultures is almost a religious
requirement, and abandonment of which is expected to lead
to licentiousness and sexual promiscuity. Or, take hospitals
and social work agencies in Hassidic communities, in which
a man being alone with a woman other than his wife for any
length of time and under any circumstances is forbidden. Such
conflicts of culture, ethics, and human rights will continue
to seize social workers for many generations to come.
Then there is
the subject of migration - that is, movement into a country
with the expectation, at least from one side, that the migrant
will leave after a short or specified time. Most of the countries
importing foreign laborers do not consider them as immigrants
who will eventually become citizens, but as temporary workers
who will leave when the need for their work diminishes. In
fact, in many cases barriers are erected against the migrant's
permanent settlement, such as sequestering his or her passport,
or not renewing visas, not allowing families to join the workers
in the host country and physically expelling the unwanted
As in many other
cases, public and policy attitudes change with the changing
nature of the migrant group. In Canada, "nannies"
from Britain were almost coddled by law and by custom, but
when such caretakers became Filipinas or Jamaicans, policy
became more regressive.
their own problems, brought on by their status. Earning more
than they could in their home countries, and supporting their
families reasonably well with their remittances, they are
willing to and do endure many privations. For the most part
they are considered outside the society of the host country,
with very little amenities established for them. They may
become extremely lonely. Many of them have almost no personal
contact with the opposite sex, since the host population isolates
and ignores them other than as workers. If they are not living-in
carers, they often live in sub-standard conditions. In many
cases they are exploited by their employers; are denied many
of the protections given citizens; and may benefit from no
social services, including health insurance, unemployment
compensation or old-age pensions. The plight of the migrant
in Canada, for example, has been summarized as "unpaid
overtime work, sexual harassment, alienation/isolation from
society, and quality of room and board." Few governmental
bodies and even fewer volunteer organizations are concerned
about the condition of migrant workers. As social services
become increasingly privatized, it is probable that migrants
will lose even more of whatever governmental services and
protection they now enjoy.
of a refugee - as distinct from that of an immigrant or a
migrant - is, according to the United Nations: "Those
who have fled their countries because of well-founded fear
of persecution for reasons of their race, religion, nationality,
political opinion, or membership in a particular social group,
and who cannot or do not want to be returned."
It would be exceedingly
presumptuous of me to attempt to explain the problems of refugees
or their situations in the setting in which we find ourselves.
However, as deep and as painful as the situation is here in
Croatia and in neighboring countries, the problem is worldwide.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates
that there are about fifty million victims of forced displacement,
of whom only twenty-two million are under the aegis of the
Commissioner. In fact, one in every two hundred sixty four
people in the world is a refugee. There are estimated to be
about twenty million persons displaced in their own lands.
Among other distinctions as concerns refugees, there are asylum
seekers, economic migrants, refugees sur place, and stateless
persons, and there are conditions under which one ceases to
be a refugee. Each of these definitions or situations requires
differential handling, different social policies, and different
methods of practice.
The three methods
by which the UN attempts to solve the refugee problem - in
addition to caring for them while they are refugees - are
repatriation, integration, and resettlement. Repatriation
involves returning to the country from which one came. Integration
means staying in the place of refuge as a permanent solution.
Resettlement consists of settling refugees in a third country
- not the one from which they came and not the one in which
they found refuge.
The attitude of refugees' host countries is often schizophrenic.
Refugees have their usefulness, as cheap labor, as workers
willing to undertake unpleasant tasks, as scapegoats for social
problems, and - in some cases - as bringing desirable social
attributes. On the other hand, they are seen as a foreign
element in many senses of that term, they require massive
amounts of aid that could be used for other purposes, and
they threaten to change the social fabric in many ways.
This may be illustrated by the fact that recently, in England,
a famous TV comedy program called Comic Relief undertook a
fund drive - called, incidentally, Red Nose Day - to aid refugees.
The public was prepared to participate in the effort until
it became known that the funds were to be used to help refugees
settle in England, rather than to repatriate them. The result
was a widespread public discussion, bordering on hysteria
in some cases, as to whether the refugees were to become part
of England, or were only temporary boarders, so to speak.
In any case, policy-makers in many parts of the world will
have to grapple with the fact that refugees have become a
permanent problem, and that social policy as it is now constituted
will need to deal with masses of people who may not want to
be where they are, and who are also not wanted there.
One of the growing phenomena in the world, and one that seems
destined to continue into the future, is the question of religiously-mandated
are ethnic and national differences which are not related
to religion - for example, Moslems in Iraq and Moslems in
Iran, or Christian Arabs in Lebanon and Christians in South
Korea - much ethnicity, especially during recent events, has
been almost synonymous with religious identification. Meeting
where we are, I am sure I do not have to belabor this point.
The growth of
religious fundamentalism, in particular, has many implications
for the future of domestic and international peace. For social
work practice, the difficulties are clear. As inter-religious
confrontation and conflict take place, the traditional methods
of conflict resolution become more irrelevant. When an individual
or a group feels that God has told them what they must do
in order to avoid being sinners or to escape the flames of
eternal damnation, there is little that the familiar social
work methods of conciliation, compromise, cooperation, coordination,
or co-optation can accomplish when these behaviors lead to
conflict with individuals or groups that believe and behave
differently. Even more difficult is the situation where not
only has a group been told what they must do, but when they
sincerely believe that Paradise will not be gained; that the
Messiah will not come; that the Kingdom of God will not be
established on earth, until everyone else behaves as they
do, or as they would like them to. They are therefore driven
by inner conviction, religious teachings and peer pressure
to dictate others' behaviors, if not their beliefs. As noted
in the sixteenth century life of Thomas More, "His opponents
were genuinely following their consciences, while more considered
them the harbingers of the devil's reign on earth. How could
there be moderation in any confrontation between them?"
This raises a
congeries of questions for social work and social work education.
How much should be taught about religious beliefs and practices?
Of which groups? Is there a core set of values and behaviors
for all groups? Should there be separate schools or separate
curricula for adherents of different religions? Are there
methods of conflict resolution not yet tried? The role of
social policy and social work practice in this area needs
a great deal more thought.
Poverty may be
defined in various ways. These include absolute measures,
such as the poverty line based on dollar amounts in the United
States; relative measures, as used in Australia, or subjectively,
as to the extent that people feel themselves deprived. Poverty
definitions may include or exclude assets; or may be descriptive,
such as the "socially deprived," or "excluded."
The United Nations defines poverty as a condition of life
limited by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid surroundings,
high infant mortality, and low life expectancy.
definitions of poverty will, of course, result in different
figures. In the United States, poverty may be seen to range
between ten and twenty-three percent, depending upon what
is included or excluded as income. Despite such differences
in definitions, however, poverty in the industrialized urbanized
countries ranges from seven to twenty-five percent of the
population, with most countries experiencing ten to fifteen
percent poverty. In the developing world, the range is from
forty to seventy percent -- all of these according to the
poverty definitions used by the countries themselves.
One fifth of humanity
lives in extreme poverty, and the percentage of the population
in developing countries below the poverty line is around thirty
percent. Up to forty percent of the world population may be
defined as poor, if poverty is measured according to whether
they have a standard of living that includes adequate food,
safe and sufficient supplies of water, secure shelter and
access to education and health care.
The single largest
group in poverty in most countries is the aged, as mentioned
above. The other largest groups are single parents, children,
the working poor, and the unemployed. The most often-used
measure to attempt to reduce poverty is income supplementation,
usually through a social welfare program. The next most popular
- or most popularly discussed - is job creation or otherwise
reducing unemployment. Given the fact that three of the largest
groups in poverty are the aged and children (both of whom
are out of the labor force); and people who are poor despite
the fact that they are working, employment is - by definition
- a very partial antidote for poverty.
Although poverty is usually thought of exclusively in terms
of lack of money - and this is, indeed, the root of many other
problems - there are other indices. Half of the world's population
does not have access to a decent toilet, and that number is
growing. Thirty percent of American children have never seen
a dentist (and this should not be taken to mean that their
teeth are so good they don't need to). The ills attributable
to this kind of "belly-gripping, face-grinding"
poverty include drug addiction, crime, vandalism and family
populous places in the world experience poverty, this is not
in itself caused by large populations. For example, world
population has been rising since the memory of man runneth
not to the contrary.
It took from the
beginning of the world until the advent of the years called
A.D. for the world population to reach a quarter of a billion.
By 1650 the world population had doubled to half a billion.
In 1850, the billion mark was reached. It took only another
eighty years (1930) for the population to reach two billion.
In another thirty years (1960), it had reached three billion,
and fifteen years later (1975) the population was four billion.
The latest population figures indicate a world population
of about six billion.
in and of itself has been the cause of many problems - crowdedness,
homelessness, urbanization, and destitution, among others.
It has not, however, been the cause of hunger. Agricultural
productivity has risen faster than population rates. For example,
in 1776 one farmer produced food for three people. In 1976,
one farmer produced food for fifty-seven people. Hunger is
due to political, economic and logistical reasons, rather
than due to food shortages.
What seems to
be the future of poverty? To quote a recently-published article,
"Poverty has a rich future." The growth of globalization,
privatization, and what has been called the "market-driven
society" all serve to polarize the economy into the very
rich and the very poor. It is a common assumption that as
a society prospers, all of the citizens gain, although perhaps
not in proportionate amounts. This has been expressed in a
number of ways. For example, "You can't distribute poverty,"
or "What is good for General Motors is good for the country,"
or - more recently - "A rising tide raises all the boats."
However, experience indicates that the rising tide contains
a vicious undertow that pulls many people under - especially
those without boats.
A few examples:
In the 1980s, for every person in the United States who joined
the middle class, two joined the group of the poor. For every
seventy-dollar increase in income among the richest twenty
percent in the United States between 1979 and 1989, the poorest
twenty percent lost a dollar. In the United Kingdom during
the same period, for every five thousand pounds sterling increase
among the upper twenty percent, the lowest ten percent lost
two hundred pounds. From 1978 to 1987 the income of the top
fifth of the population in the United States increased by
thirteen percent, while that of the bottom fifth declined
by eight percent. In 1960 a family of three in the United
State with a full-time worker making the minimum wage would
have been lifted above the poverty line. In 1990, that same
family would be living $2000 below the poverty line.
On a global basis,
whereas in 1960 the richest twenty percent of the world population
had incomes thirty times greater than the poorest twenty percent,
by 1990 this had grown to sixty percent greater, when measured
between countries. When the gap is measured within countries,
the income of the richest twenty percent is one hundred fifty
times greater than that of the poorest. In short, not only
is the income gap growing throughout the world, but the "trickle
down" theory must, in all honesty, give way to the "bubble
up" theory of economics. Stated in almost Marxist terms,
the rich get richer by making the poor poorer.
One of the ways
by which the rich get richer is through growing globalization.
A number of factors have lead to the process called "globalization."
As large corporations began diversifying their products and
services by buying up smaller enterprises -- usually for stock
market, income tax or other financial benefits - they became
conglomerates. By then merging with similar -- often overseas
-- conglomerates, they became huge international entities
known as MNCs (Multinational Companies). The economic breakdown
of the Soviet Union gave further impetus to globalization
as many foreign firms hurried to establish units there. Free
trade agreements of various kinds further supported this process.
Even the partial integration of Europe and the introduction
of the Euro makes business across former boundaries easier,
and consequently, "MNCs are increasingly organizing production
and service provisions on an international basis."
it should be recognized that globalization is not confined
to industry. The imported carers mentioned above, the movement
of migrant workers, and business conducted on the Internet,
are all examples of non-industrial globalization.
It can be and
has been argued that globalization offers end result benefits
to the populations of the world by providing cheaper goods
and services than would be possible if operations were confined
to one country. Additionally, as global firms move their operations
to wherever costs are lower, they may raise the economic level
of that area by providing jobs and other amenities. Thus,
the advent of a branch of any global industry or service is
usually welcomed by the inhabitants of the region being entered.
On the down side,
however, the rationale for most globalization is acquisition
of cheaper labor in both the service and the industrial areas.
Whether this is seen as exploitative or beneficial may rest
on the circumstances, but the decision to move or to stay
is based purely upon the expected bottom line. These decisions,
driven by stockholders' demands for profits, do not take into
account any humanistic, altruistic, ecological or other considerations.
If, as Justice Brandeis once remarked, "Corporations
have no souls," MNCs have no consciences. In their pursuit
of profits, they may and do adopt H. W. Vanderbilt's famous
dictum: "The public be damned." Movement out of
a region or area may be consummated with no discussion, no
concern for the unemployment thus created or the problems
Lack of accountability,
combined with profitability as the only goal, may lead to
other anti-social activities by MNCs, such as use of child
labor, ignoring minimum wage laws, and bribery of local officials.
For example, global corporations that proudly proclaim they
are equal opportunity employers in the United States appear
on other nations' and international lists of discriminators.
Since there is
no international authority capable of initiating laws governing
these activities, and much less of compelling obedience to
them, global companies must be tried for such offenses in
each country in which they operate, and can often simply uproot
themselves and move elsewhere if such actions become too annoying
or too costly. For example, despite the now-accepted fact
that cigarettes are detrimental to health, and despite the
heavy fines levied on some companies in the United States,
there is no international authority that can stop such companies
from attempting to entice young people, or people in developing
areas, to smoke. In Papua/New Guinea, as one instance, the
only billboards found along rural roads are those advertising
the future will probably see much movement and instability,
as lower cost conditions are exploited in one place, and then
moved to another when costs begin to rise, or another location
proves cheaper. Further, In order to entice companies to stay
in their area, local governments may offer inducements that
include use of non-union labor, tax benefits, subsidies, lowered
minimum wages, non-enforcement of ecological regulations,
and other legal and semi-legal methods of cutting corners.
By the unremitting
search for the lowest possible costs in material and labor,
regardless of other considerations, globalization enriches
the haves and exploits the have-nots, leading to greater and
greater economic disparities in society.
A corollary of
globalization is privatization. Indeed, the two seem synergistic,
each feeding on the other. Privatization, of course, is the
turning over of governmental services to non-governmental
bodies, which are then free to become MNCs.. These may be
for-profit companies, or not-for-profit voluntary groups.
The term NGO for any non-governmental organization is more
generic, whereas VNPO specifies a voluntary not-for-profit
The reason usually
given for the privatization of previously governmental-offered
services is efficiency and/or effectiveness, but that is most
often a rationalization - that is, a good reason in place
of the real reason. Privatization of government functions
is undertaken to relieve the government of a financial burden,
and with it, responsibility for the service. As Kramer, et
al, report: Through privatization, "The State has been
able to off-load or shed unwanted, expensive, sensitive, controversial
privatization may arise from other reasons. While the state
is more adept at striving for uniformity and equity in services,
there may be occasions when the need for a body able to be
more responsive to cultural and religious differences is the
reason for divestment of a governmental function.
may take many forms. One method is for the government to give
up a monopoly and allow competition. For example, In Israel,
private employment agencies were illegal until a few years
ago, and matching people with jobs was done by a government
department. Since giving up the restriction on private employment
services, many agencies have come into existence. With them,
have come sharp practices. For example, rather than matching
people with jobs, some agencies hire the people, and then
"lend-lease" them to other employers on a temporary
basis. The employee thus has no permanence, no seniority,
and no chance of advancement in the firm for which he or she
is working, and -- being temporary - often no pension plan
or unemployment insurance. Nor can the worker bargain with
the employer for better salaries or conditions, since he or
she doesn't work for the firm.
In other cases, the government may sell off some of its services,
retain some, and compete with the private sector. The clearest
example of this is seen when the government operates radio
stations and sells some but continues to operate one or more.
Again, privatization may involve selling stock to the public
of a previously-government service, as England did when privatizing
its railway system. Often, however, privatization means the
government selling a company previously run by itself - armament
manufacturing, hospitals, railways, and even - in some countries
- the prison system. There have also been experiments in privatizing
the educational system.
That such selling-off
will provide governments with money and relieve them of further
financial responsibility is the most-offered reason offered
for privatization. Nevertheless, it emerges that the government
may subsidize voluntary organizations to undertake previous
government functions to the extent that no savings are effected.
Indeed, where the public social services are concerned, no
country has found a practical replacement for public financing.
Since social welfare programs are so closely linked to the
economic climate, one can understand Macarov's maxim regarding
social welfare: "When we need it, we can't afford it.
When we can afford it, we don't need it."
The second argument
often advanced for privatization - that private industry is
more efficient and effective than government services - is
open to serious question.
is separated from effectiveness, it is possible to push it
to new heights. The Minute Waltz can be played in fifty seconds;
interview time for social workers can be limited; hospital
beds can be emptied by sending sick people home, and so forth.
But when effectiveness is held constant, and private versus
public auspices are compared, such generalities prove too
vague. In a study of homes for the aged, conducted in England,
it was found that the government was more efficient and effective
in managing large establishments, but that small establishments
were best run by the private sector. However, the researchers
also uncovered the reason for the differences. The small homes
were often run as a Mom-and-Pop operation, with the owners
paying help less than the minimum wage, and with the owners
themselves working up to ninety-six hours a weeks without
pay, so to speak, so that their labor costs were not included
in the statistics.
There is, in fact,
very little research in which effectiveness is held constant,
and efficiency is measured. "Because there is very little
empirical, tested knowledge?policy questions are often resolved
largely on grounds of expediency, or on the basis of questionable
assumptions regarding the virtues of non-government organizations."
effect of privatization that can be very personal for some
participants here can be the dismissal of occupational social
workers. The number of social workers in industry in Slovenia
dropped from four hundred to eighty as soon as privatization
took place. Social workers who remain in privatized settings
may find themselves in dilemmas not unknown up to now; that
is, dealing with the unhappiness of workers set against the
profit-motive of the owners; or, more generally, operating
under the aegis or supervision of non-professionals who do
not share our goals, values, and methods.
In the final analysis,
there is an ideology underlying privatization. It is an assumption
dating back to Adam Smith, if not further, that everyone competing
against everyone else is not only efficient, leading to high
quality and low prices, but that it is moral and desirable.
In this ideology there is no room for humanity, altruism,
sacrifice or friendship in the economic world. It holds that
people are guided only by their own economic considerations
- in other words that greed is guide, goal and God.
This view has
led to what has been called the market-driven economy, which
is rapidly becoming the market-driven society. As the world
becomes incorporated, privatized and globalized, we return
to the world of the Social Darwinists: The ambitious, brave
and capable will rise to the top, and the rest will deserve
their fate for that is the rule of nature. You will recognize
that this is the rule of the jungle, not of society.
Finally, in this
connection, the unresolved questions as to what is best done
by government, by voluntary organizations, and by profit-seeking
firms has led to a good deal of writing, but less research,
as to the proper welfare mix. This search is likely to continue
for some time into the future, but the major trend will be
a divestment of governmental services wherever possible, whether
onto voluntary or private market providers. It is very difficult
to foresee governments re-assuming responsibility for those
areas from which they have recently exited.
Now we come to
the wild card. The future of technology and - more important
- the effects of technology are almost unpredictable. There
are those who see technology as making life easier, more prosperous
and happier; and those who see civilization, if not humankind,
wiped out by technology.
If we look back,
however, to the past of technology, we may get some hints
of the future. Technology as we think of it today may be said
to have begun in 1713 when a twelve-year-old boy named Humphrey
Potter added a homemade device to Newcomen's steam engine,
thus causing the machine to regulate itself. The subsequent
growth of technology - including the Industrial Revolution
-- was so rapid that early in the nineteenth century a bill
was introduced in the British Parliament to do away with the
patent office, because everything conceivable had already
Although one of
the results of modern technology has been an increase in pleasurable
activities, such as computer games, e-mail correspondence
and ease of mathematical calculations, perhaps one of its
greatest influences on human well-being is the constant decrease
in hours of work. Hours of work have been decreasing since
the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
In 1900 people
worked fifty-three hours per week. In 1979 this was down to
thirty-five point five; in 1986, thirty four point eight;
in 1994, this was down to thirty-four point four hours. There
are annual fluctuations, but the long-term trend is always
downwards. On the other hand, this downturn in the hours of
work does not indicate less productivity. In 1950 American
individuals produced $5,000 of the Gross National Product;
in 1975, $16,000; now, about $85,000; and it is estimated
that by the year 2100 that figure will be five million dollars.
Further, it is estimated that in 1850 people used thirteen
percent of their energy at work and today that figure is less
than one percent.
one of the most hotly debated items when discussing future
social policy is whether or when we will reach a point where
the great majority of the work is done by a small minority
of the people. Were that to happen, the question of how people
would be supported, if not through their own work, is challenging.
Even today those who are out of the labor force for various
reasons, or those who cannot find employment, are excluded
from social security programs. Eighty-nine percent of sickness
and maternity programs; 88% of old age programs; 67% of family
and children's programs; and, of course, 100% of workmen's
compensation and unemployment programs, are only for workers.
suggestions have been made concerning the support of non-workers
when almost no work will be available, but in essence, a new
social paradigm will be required to underpin the human condition.
Unfortunately, very few planners or researchers are preparing
for such a future, partly because it is unprecedented, and
partly because socialization concerning the morality of work
is so widespread and so deep that it seems almost heretical
or blasphemous to question it.
have many other impacts on the human condition, some of which
are already evident in education, leisure, and relationships.
How many youngsters, who are now on the Internet and exchanging
e-mail letters would have spent as much time writing to their
peers and their elders, if they had to pick up a pen and paper,
or even use a typewriter? How many would even have heard of
some of the ideas - good, bad and debatable - that they now
find on the web?
Indeed, the future
impact of technology in general, and computers in particular,
is so uncertain that no general predictions can be made. However,
the growth of computer use is almost certain to continue.
In fact, it has been predicted that manufacturers will soon
give computers away in order to increase sales of software,
and of advertising on the web.
Although the totality
of the influence of technology on society in the future is
unpredictable, there are trends, possibilities and probabilities
with which current social thinkers and planners must come
to grips if chaos is to be avoided.
As this entire
paper has indicated, there are specific areas, which can be
predicted with some certainty, others for which predictions
are chancier, and some which cannot be predicted with surety,
except that they will be transformed. There are also a number
of very important future situations that are not explored
here due to limitations of space and time.
but are not limited to, the spread of AIDS. In some countries,
mostly in Africa, it is reported that over half the population
is infected with the HIV virus, and the number is growing.
Another area not mentioned here is the spread of the drug
culture, ranging from the relatively harmless, such as betel
nut chewing and tobacco use, to personality-erasing heroin,
cocaine and crack. Finally, the growth of lone parenthood
should also be mentioned as a current and probably future
Then there are
the great unknowns. For example, the impact that genetic engineering
- in all its phases - will have on the world, or the impact
of ecological changes, such as the loss of biodiversity and
It remains to
be noted that in addition to such individual shifts and causes
of change, many widespread social changes take place because
of almost invisible and unpredictable transformations in human
attitudes. The end of colonialism, the student and youth movements
of the sixties; growing awareness of gender inequalities;
the giving up of some manifestations of xenophobia, as exemplified
by the emergence of United Europe; and - conversely - growing
religion-ethnicity, are some examples.
the demise of the Communist system gave rise to a new materialism,
based on the capitalist system, in which profit is accepted
as the only real - and desirable - motivation in human life.
The implications of this ideology have already exhibited themselves
in the globalization, privatization, and economic gap mentioned
previously. However, there are those who see benefits arising
from this ideology.
Maybe not Singer,
for one, holds that the desire for more material goods has
brought about and - the long run -- will continue to cause
a reduction in birth rates, as families opt for fewer children
and more material goods for themselves and for the children.
This will result in a smaller world population, with both
positive and negative implications. On the one hand, there
will be a smaller pool from which to draw talented, experienced,
creative people. On the other hand, there will be less drain
on natural resources.
Singer also points
out that although the typical person in the world today lives
at the level of people in South Asia, in another century he
or she will live in a world comparable to South Europe --
a level which is only 50% of the American level, but which
will be a very large improvement over the current situation.
Most of the changes predicted by Singer will arise from changes
in attitudes, brought about by more education, more widespread
communication, better health, and more personal contact with
others, and not from organizing, agitating, legislating and
actively promoting change.
Change is the
only thing certain. Whether the ill-effects can be alleviated,
and/or the positive effects accentuated, depends in large
measure not only on how well we can predict the changes, but
what we can and will do to influence them. Let us hope that
we will not be like Herodotus, who said: "The bitterest
of all griefs (is) to see clearly and yet be unable to do
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