The Politics of Representation: Social Work Lessons From the Advocacy Planning Movement

The Politics of Representation: Social Work Lessons From the Advocacy Planning Movement

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The Politics of Representation: Social Work Lessons From the Advocacy Planning Movement

In urban planning's new political awareness, representation became a social responsibility issue. This new understanding of politics and social responsibility in urban planning may have brought boundary interaction between planners and other professions, such as social work…


In his 1995 article, Andrew Abbott explores his evolving conception of the social work profession. As we approach the new millennium, Abbott's conception becomes strikingly relevant. In brief review, Abbott's first notion posits that social work is a profession of interstitiality. In this context, social workers translate and mediate between collogues in highly technical professions and their own social work clients. Abbott refers to this relationship as a "social work of boundaries" (Abbott, 1995).

As the boundaries between other professions change, the social work interstitiality changes as well - coined by Abbott "the boundaries of social work." Abbott writes; "the function of social work, like those of other professions, emerged from a continuous conflict and change" (Abbott, 1995, p. 552). As examples, Abbott related aspects of conflicts in which social work gained or lost "sub-fields" to neighboring professions.

Abbott's third conception admits that both of his previous notions fail to address the origin of the modern social work profession. In his subsequent exploration of social work origins, Abbott suggests that other professions solidified before social work did, creating the boundaries from which social work emerged (Abbott, 1995).

Abbott's three conceptions share the theme that social work does not stand alone as a professi...

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...e and the Urban Crisis. New York: Pantheon Books.

Piven, F. F. & Cloward, R. A. (1971). Regulating the Poor: Functions of Public Welfare. New York: Pantheon Books.

Piven, F. F., Cloward, R. A. (1988). Why Americans Don't Vote. New York: Pantheon Books.
Planners Network. (1999). What is planners network? Planners Network Online.

Planning 58 (3). (March 1992). APA News, 36-38.

Reiner, J. S., Reimer, E., & Reiner, T. A. (1963). Client analysis and the planning of public programs. Journal of the American Institute of Planning 29 (4), 270-282.

Wachs, M., ed. (1985). Ethics in Planning. New Brunswick, NJ: Center for Urban Policy.

Webber, M. M. (1973). Comprehensive planning and social responsibility: Toward an AIP consensus on the profession's roles and purposes. Journal of the American Institute of Planning, 232-241.

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