In this chapter we consider modern critical social work. In its broadest sense, critical social work is concerned with the analysis and transformation of power relations at every level of social work practice. This chapter focuses on modern forms of critical social work and Chapter 10 considers postmodern influences on social work generally, including critical social work. The term ‘modern critical social work’ refers to forms of critical social work that are grounded primarily in modernist ideas about power and identity. ‘Critical social work’ refers to a broad range of practice perspectives, from radical to anti-oppressive practice. These draw on critical social science theories and focus on understanding and addressing the impact of broad social structures on the problems facing service users and the social work process itself. In this chapter, we discuss the historical foundations of modern critical social work and the radical approaches that preceded antioppressive practice. We outline and apply one contemporary form of critical social work, namely anti-oppressive practice, to a case study.
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