Men and Social Work: Theories and Practices

Edited by Alastair Christie.



ISBN 0 333 69083 4

This book explores the contentious issue of man’s
consciousness in a woman’s world. It analyses the social and
political realities influencing men as caregivers and as
careseekers in the context of social work. It provides a
theoretical overview of gendered approaches to welfare and
addresses practice issues concerning men as professionals and as
service users in child care, community care, probation, mental
health and social work education.

The book makes overt the ambivalent and contradictory attitudes
to masculinity that influence social policy and social work and
makes practical recommendations that encourage reflexivity.

It is timely in relation to the public debate on the risk to
children from male caregivers and broadens the discussion of sexual
violence to the whole position of men in social welfare. Feminism
and gay work are acknowledged as the starting point of a critique
of dominant forms of sexuality, although I think the
marginalisation of feminism in social work tends to be
underestimated. Most of the contributors, who include two women,
touch on where the personal, the professional and the political
meet in their own work. They succeed in holding together the
complex and fragmented nature of the discourse regarding social
welfare and put forward a vision for change.

The book recognises that the crisis of masculinity which it
explores is related to a crisis of capitalism, no longer
necessarily served by existing forms of patriarchy. While I agree
that this crisis provides an opportunity to reshape the discourse
and that the development of less oppressive forms of masculinity is
a desirable goal, the book’s case for change is essentially

I was not convinced that male dominance and male violence can be
deconstructed through applying critical attention to masculinity at
an individual or organisational level. I thought that the authors
needed to go further in exploring the role of capitalism in
determining gendered power relations, its capacity to incorporate
and contain challenges to oppression and ways in which its
late-modernity needs might be served by a shift in “macho culture”,
for example, to enable more men to enter welfare and service
industries in response to changing employment patterns.

A wide range of professionals will find something of interest in
this book. It is a well written and well-researched resource which
will stimulate thinking about the deconstruction of masculinity and
ways of developing anti-oppressive practice. Male professionals
will find practical points to challenge and explore their own role
and both male and female students, practitioners and trainers will
be enabled to engage creatively with assumptions about masculinity
affecting social work education and service delivery.

Sue Richardson is an attachment-based psychotherapist,
an author and a trainer.

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