A Violent History of Benevolence: Interlocking Oppression in the Moral Economies of Social Working

By Chris Chapman and A.J. Withers

© 2019

A Violent History of Benevolence traces how normative histories of liberalism, progress, and social work enact and obscure systemic violences. Chris Chapman and A.J. Withers explore how normative social work history is structured in such a way that contemporary social workers can know many details about social work’s violences, without ever imagining that they may also be complicit in these violences. Framings of social work history actively create present-day political and ethical irresponsibility, even among those who imagine themselves to be anti-oppressive, liberal, or radical.

The authors document many histories usually left out of social work discourse, including communities of Black social workers (who, among other things, never removed children from their homes involuntarily), the role of early social workers in advancing eugenics and mass confinement, and the resonant emergence of colonial education, psychiatry, and the penitentiary in the same decade. Ultimately, A Violent History of Benevolence aims to invite contemporary social workers and others to reflect on the complex nature of contemporary social work, and specifically on the present-day structural violences that social work enacts in the name of benevolence.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 536 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
Product Formats

SaveUP TO

Book Formats

SKU# SP004191

  • PUBLISHED FEB 2019
    From: $48.95
    ISBN 9781442628861
  • PUBLISHED FEB 2019

    From: $93.75

    Regular Price: $125.00

    ISBN 9781442637313
  • PUBLISHED MAR 2019
    From: $39.95

Quick Overview


A Violent History of Benevolence traces how standard histories of liberalism, progress, and social work are inextricable from systemic violences of colonialism, racism, disablism, cisheteropatriarchy, eugenics, and capitalism.

A Violent History of Benevolence: Interlocking Oppression in the Moral Economies of Social Working

By Chris Chapman and A.J. Withers

© 2019

A Violent History of Benevolence traces how normative histories of liberalism, progress, and social work enact and obscure systemic violences. Chris Chapman and A.J. Withers explore how normative social work history is structured in such a way that contemporary social workers can know many details about social work’s violences, without ever imagining that they may also be complicit in these violences. Framings of social work history actively create present-day political and ethical irresponsibility, even among those who imagine themselves to be anti-oppressive, liberal, or radical.

The authors document many histories usually left out of social work discourse, including communities of Black social workers (who, among other things, never removed children from their homes involuntarily), the role of early social workers in advancing eugenics and mass confinement, and the resonant emergence of colonial education, psychiatry, and the penitentiary in the same decade. Ultimately, A Violent History of Benevolence aims to invite contemporary social workers and others to reflect on the complex nature of contemporary social work, and specifically on the present-day structural violences that social work enacts in the name of benevolence.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 536 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "Linking history to the present is very important to social work readers. Discussing rehabilitation, assimilation, and repair, A Violent History of Benevolence acts as a counter-narrative to the more simplistic, history-as-progress narrative often assigned to conversations about social work. This information is vital for students and faculty, and the social work knowledge base."


    Donna Jeffery, School of Social Work, University of Victoria

    "The book beautifully and at times devastatingly traces the violent history of benevolence from which much current social work, and psy-expertise, has grown. This is a study of historical violence and atrocity that disrupts and makes unfamiliar continued and contemporary practices, making us look anew at how these practices enact violence, encouraging a deep ethical questioning of people’s imagined rights to intervene in others’ lives."


    China Mills, Lecturer in Critical Educational Psychology, School of Education, University of Sheffield

    "Sensitive to how history is written, Chapman and Withers pull out threads that reveal what is not included in usual histories of social work."


    Sheila Neysmith, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto
  • Author Information

    Chris Chapman is an associate professor of Social Work at York University.


    A.J Withers is a PhD candidate in the School of Social Work at York University, and an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.
  • Table of contents

    Chapter 1: Troubling the Standard Account of Social Work
    Chapter 2: White Supremacy and the Erasure of Racialized Social Workers
    Chapter 3: Social Work as Displacement, Denigration, Cisheteropatriarchalization
    Chapter 4: Knowing Better: Liberalism, Instrumental Violence, and Making New Humans
    Chapter 5: Rehabilitation/Eugenics
    Chapter 6: Assimilation/Genocide
    Chapter 7: And What if it isn’t Getting Better? What do we do then?