Tracing the social concepts, contours

Published: 04th December 2012 08:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th December 2012 08:58 AM   |  A+A-

Recent times has seen many published works on social services and social practices prevailing in India but Shankar Pathak’s Social Work and Social Welfare, A Historical - cultural Perspective is a lucid compilation of his published writings from his previous two books, Social Welfare-An Evolutionary And Developmental Perspective and the second one, Social Welfare, Health and Family Planning in India. The author has added four new chapters in this book that includes Bhagvat Gita, Bhakti movement, Professionalism of Social work and Developmental Social Welfare.

For the first time, we see an elaborate piece from a sociological perspective angle on Arjun’s dilemma on the battlefield when faced with his own kith and kin that has been depicted in the Bhagvat Gita. Although the helping process in the Gita is significantly similar to social work nowadays but there are some important differences and significant similarities that have been identified.

Shankar Pathak says, “The process of helping is a dialog process of enabling Arjuna to go through the mental process to grasp the problem, the situation and the ways to tackle it and make the right decision on the battlefront. Arjuna is given the opportunity to think, reflect and then decide, the right of self-determination, to choose between various alternatives. Krishna does not impose his views on Arjuna or to choose a particular course of action or manipulate him to decide. All these is the essence of a helping process found in the best practices of modern professional social work.”

Another highlight in the book includes a chapter on the Bhakti Movement with emphasis on its ideology, concept and contribution but its relevance to social work during that period. The author takes a look at the Bhakti compositions of well known Bhakti poets like Kabir, Purandara Dasa, Kanak Dasa as well as from a gender perspective on women poets like Mira, Mahadeviakka, Andal and Lal Ded.

The author says, “The Bhakti poets rejected the iniquitous social structure based on fourfold classification of society, the high and low classifications of the population. In fact, the Bhakti poetry use the term “Kula” which is closer to the concept of social class or clan that is “jati”. The word “jati” is also used by Kabir and the Vachanas of Shivasharanas such as Basava.”

Apart from this, the author criticizes Chidananda Murthy’s long essay “Bhakti-A protest movement” saying that this observation is debatable as he does not cite any textual sources in support of his statement that Bhakti movements are a form of protest against monarchy, in the sense, many of them were not prepared to accept a human being as their master.

An authoritative work, the book traces the evolution of social work in India right from the ancient times to the present and also discusses the quest for professional status and the practice of social work in a cultural perspective. Tracing the social history or more specifically the history of the movements of the poor, the author has touched upon the study of social structure which is basically the evolution of social welfare in India from Chapters three to seven.

The author says, “If the reader is disappointed in the application of the approach, it is not only due to paucity of time and space but also extreme paucity of historical evidence to write reliable social history of the life and movements of the poor. This is especially true for the ancient period and to a lesser extent the medieval period.” A very valuable piece of work from an erudite scholar, the book is an interesting read not only for students and research scholars but also for people interested in the history of social work and welfare in India which draws upon its history, traditions and practices concisely and lucidly. Shankar Pathak has authored five books on social work and contributed articles to the Encyclopaedia of Social Work in India (1966 and 1987) and several anthologies on social work.


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