The Numerous Philosophies of Social Human Services

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This paper will summarize four social philosophies: Individualism, Laissez-Faire, Social Darwinism, and Government Intervention and their impact, if any, on human services for the less fortunate. The above philosophies “encouraged the belief that nothing could be done about the situation of the working class and poor who faced long work hours, low wages, child labor, and unhealthy work conditions” (Historical Development of Helping, Slide 30).

The perceptions of the four philosophies seems dreary and foreboding when deciphered in terms of their role relative to human services. These philosophies were developed during the period of social reform, ideas that sought to find avenues to incorporate, and strengthen, the contributions of the less fortunate into the growing economic and financial systems. There seemed to be contrariness in developing theories to address the needs of those less fortunate during the 19th century -- using bias and the economic and financial state of the world as measuring tools for need. “The prevailing belief systems discouraged providing services, and limited services to those who desperately needed assistance” (Historical Development of Helping, Slide 30).

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The philosophy of individualism was marked by the belief that “individuals should be held responsible for their own life circumstances” (Historical Development of Helping, Slide 29). The economy during the 19th century revealed the heavy financial burdens of the government and private companies, all dealing with the aftermath of the Depression era. At the time, this philosophy seemed logical to those who had a biased view of the role of spirituality and the nature of man.

The philosophy of laissez-faire focused on the responsibility of society, rather than the individual; and, opposed the provision of any human services as an individual right (Historical Development of Helping, Slide 29). Weikart, (1998), discusses laissez-faire in an economic sense with the underlying influence of the philosophy of Social Darwinism. He states that “Laissez-faire was no amoral free-for-all with complete indifference to human suffering, though its opponents depicted it as such. It was sometimes used ideologically by immoral people to justify oppressing their fellow human beings” (p. 19). The impact of this philosophy during the 19th century lauded the belief that the economy, and economic foundation of the country, should take precedence over providing human services to the poor.

Government intervention centered on the belief that the government should provide services for the needy (Historical Development of Helping, Slide 29). Regarding this philosophy, I tend to agree with Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control” (15.3 Government Policy, p. 1). The concept of government intervention is valid and can be used as an advantage in fulfilling the responsibility of providing human services to those in need. The client should understand, and strive to take responsibility for their circumstances, using the benefits of receiving help from human services as a gateway to set goals to help improve their circumstances with a desire to alleviate medical, healthcare, financial, and economic burdens. The social Darwinism philosophy was based on the belief that the strong survives, and the weak/unfit perishes due to an inability to meet their own needs. It can be assumed that according to the philosophy of social Darwinism, those who worked hard would succeed in their endeavors, and those who were impoverished were in dire straits because of a weakness in their faith and spiritual beliefs (Historical Development of Helping, Slide 29).

Despite some of the negative overtones of the four philosophies of human services, understanding the impact of these philosophies on how human services is viewed today, have adherence to these beliefs have thankfully transitioned to services which are more compassionate in ‘helping’ those less fortunate. I believe the evolution of care and consideration for the needs of others has surfaced and far outweigh negative thinking, beliefs, and outdated philosophies. There has been an influx of Christian morals, values, and beliefs which affect, and motivates, the perspectives of the ‘have’ and ‘have-nots’ in our society to help those in need. Human services were developed to improve the quality of life and well-being of the needy population. The intent of the client in using these services should focus on using these services as stepping-stones to becoming independent, secure, competitive, and a contributor to the growth and progress of their communities.

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