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In A Poetics of Social Work, Ken Moffatt considers the epistemological influences in the field of Canadian social work and social welfare from 1920 to 1939. Here, modernist constructs of knowledge are explored through the analysis of the thought of leading social welfare practitioners, namely Dorothy Livesay, Carl Dawson, Charlotte Whitton, and E.J. Urwick. These four figures represent a wide cross-section of Anglo-Canadian social thought at two of Canada's most influential universities (McGill and Toronto), and Moffatt's study of their thinking reveals the presence of a diversity of approaches to social work and social change during this period.
By challenging the notion that human values and humanitarian concerns were abandoned in favour of science, empirical findings, and technical interpretation of authoritative knowledge, the author attempts to expand the concept of the social work knowledge base and explores how social work emerged as a profession in Canada. Moffatt's study presents a broad context for analysis, and provides fascinating reading and source material for those interested in history, philosophy, literature, and biography, as well as social work and the social sciences.