The End of Social Work

A Defense of the Social Worker in Times of Transformation (First Edition)
Steve Burghardt
©2021, 196 pages

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The End of Social Work

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    The End of Social Work: A Defense of the Social Worker in Times of Transformation explores the deeply flawed status quo of the social work profession. Its message is clear: it is not acceptable for social workers to labor under intolerable working conditions and financial strain because they work with the poor and oppressed.

    Steve Burghardt addresses why social workers no longer have the income and status once shared with nurses and teachers. He addresses the leadership failures that cause social workers to be blamed for not ending poverty yet expected to handle burnout through self-care rather than collective action. He looks beyond nostrums of social justice to the indifference to systemic racism in the profession’s journals and programs and explores the damage caused by substituting individuated measures of unvalidated competencies for grounded wisdom in practice. It is thus no accident that a profession committing to “care for everyone” undermines the herculean work that so many social workers do on behalf of the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.

    Situating the work in the crises of 2020, Burghardt ends with a proposed call to action directed at a transformed profession. Such a campaign would be situated within the national struggles for racial justice, climate change, and economic equality so that social work and social workers regain their legitimacy as authentic advocates fighting alongside the poor and oppressed—and doing so for themselves as well.

    A rallying cry for social work itself, The End of Social Work is an ideal resource for social work programs and practicing social workers driven to enact meaningful change.

    To keep up on the latest news for The End of Social Work and to tune in to Steve Burghardt's podcast, Macro Matters!, visit:

    Steve Burghardt, M.S.W., Ph.D. is a professor of social work at Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College-CUNY. He is the author or co-author of numerous articles and over ten books. He is an eight-time teaching award winner, including the co-winning of the CSWE-Sage national award for innovative teaching. His activism began as a student organizer in the sixties; decades later, he was deeply involved with Occupy Wall Street and more recently as a leader in the Age Justice movement. His work as a consultant, trainer, and executive coach in the public and nonprofit sectors led him to a deep appreciation and respect for the committed work of frontline, as well as executive, staff for their unyielding commitments to those with whom they work—especially the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.
    Other Cognella titles by Steve Burghardt:

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    "We've come a long way since the days of friendly visitors to the professionals we are today. Yet social work has not escaped its own feminization of poverty. Today we are more skilled but laden with student debt and often impoverished ourselves. We have forgotten about the sacredness of our work. This is why The End is one of the most important books in social work for the 21st century."
    Dr. Barbara Milton, LCSW, Ph.D.
    New Jersey 2014 NASW Social Worker of the Year
    Clinical Social Worker

    “An essential work.”
    Sandy Bernabei, MSW, LCSW
    Former President, NYC NASW Chapter
    Founding Member, Antiracist Alliance

    “The End of Social Work raises critical issues about the profession that must be addressed if social work is to fulfill its mission in the future. I just could not put this book down once I started reading. Dr. Burghardt is to be applauded for his blunt, straightforward analysis of challenges facing social work, as well as his recommendations for making changes that are long overdue. The profession is rooted in advocacy and bettering the social and economic conditions of those in need. This book serves as a call to action for social workers to use this skill to improve their own working environments and salaries, so that they can effectively help others in the future. Mobilization around the problems raised in this book must occur, and The End of Social Work provides a framework and data needed to help organize and fuel collective action. An uncensored, frank, and concise status of social work—just what is needed now in the profession’s history. A must-read for all social workers and those entering the profession.”
    Dawn Apgar, Ph.D., LSW, ACSW
    Seton Hall University, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work, and Criminal Justice President, New Jersey State NASW Chapter, 2012-2014
    NASW NJ State Chapter 2001-2003
    Board of Directors, 1999-2006

    “Steve's book was a paradigm shift for me and what I think about being a social worker. I always thought if you did this work you had to suffer and be exhausted all the time. This book makes clear that doesn't have to be the case. In the future, I plan to include in my research some of the issues discussed about agency life and burnout and what can be done about these issues. I think others will find some important answers here too."
    Ric Muñoz, JD, MSW
    Assistant Professor, University of Oklahoma School of Social Work-Tulsa

    “The End of Social Work is a tough love book and as such can be a difficult, challenging read. For some of us, this book will provide needed sustenance, affirm much of what we have been thinking, and urge us to continue. Reading this book should not be viewed as something to check off one’s social change list. We need to debate the ideas and analyses that Steve has set forth, and then we need to collectively act in ways that address the conditions he documents.”
    From the Foreword by Dr. Cheryl Hyde
    Associate Professor, Temple University School of Social Work

    “Steve Burghardt has written a truth bomb, putting in words the unspoken experiences of so many. In doing so, he gives us an X-ray of our beloved, noble profession and where healing is needed. This book is not literary cotton candy, but these aren’t times for fluff.”
    Dr. Linda Lausell Bryant, LCSW, Ph.D.
    Clinical Associate Professor, Katherine and Howard Aibel Executive-in-Residence, NYU Silver School of Social Work
    On April 15, 2021, ACOSA, SWAA, and The Special Commission to Advance Macro Practice hosted a webinar featuring Steve Burghardt (and guests Lisa Hawash, MSW, and Ric Munoz, JD, MSW) and a conversation about his text, The End of Social Work: A Defense of the Social Worker in Times of Transformation. Watch the video recording of the webinar.

    To learn the latest news about The End of Social Work and to tune in to Steve Burghardt's podcast, Macro Matters!, visit: