Like them or loathe them the Rolling Stones are embedded in everyone’s rock consciousness. The 1960s were an incredibly creative period in rock music with the Stones leading the way.
It was also an optimistic time, not least in terms of making the world a better place – the status quo needed to be challenged, something which radical social workers have always maintained. One has only to recall the student protests and the Stones’ socio-political classics such as Street Fighting Man and Gimme Shelter. There are also their hymns to the working class, such as Salt of the Earth and Factory Girl to consider, and remember Satisfaction itself is a neo-Marxist critique of capitalism.
The Stones’ music and lifestyle reflected and helped create those heady days. Parents and the establishment were concerned that they were corrupting young people’s minds and were a danger to society. This was certainly one of the things that appealed to me as I contemplated a social work career. In sociological terms I was concerned with, among other things, understanding and even appreciating deviancy.
While the Stones ascended to greatness musically during the 1970s, culminating in the classic Exile on Main Street, politically we saw the rise of the new right led by Thatcher. Arguably, the Stones sold out, one example being Jagger’s single Let’s Work which, in essence, blamed the unemployed for their predicament. Social work also came under attack, leading to a negative preoccupation with controlling the socially excluded by rationing and risk assessment.
Now the Stones may not be the creative force they once were. But at the same time the radical social work of the past has waned. Many social workers seem content to sit behind their computers, take their salaries and barely see the service users they are supposed to serve. But you never know – there may just be one more great LP in the Stones and perhaps radical social work will make a comeback.
Steve Rogowski is a local authority social worker in North West England