Foucauldian fallacies: An essay review of Leslie Margolin's Under the cover of kindness

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In Under the Cover of Kindness: The Invention of Social Work, Leslie Margolin argues that social work's core mission is neither altruism nor justice but, rather, the exercise of power, to investigate and socially control the poor on behalf of the other classes. He supports his claim with a Foucault‐style analysis of the power relations implicit in social work discourse as it appears in case records and journal articles. In this essay review, I examine Margolin's case interpretations, his postmodernist and Marxist methodological assumptions, and his arguments regarding social work's mission and function. I find that Margolin's case interpretations do not reflect the content of the case material and that he fails to offer the kinds of evidence necessary to support his claim that the mission of social work is social control. Although well written and engaging, the book offers more of a caricature of social work than a serious argument about the profession's mission. The book also suffers from broader problems afflicting forms of postmodernist scholarship that see exploitative power relations behind every social interaction.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-587
JournalSocial Service Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998


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