Human Needs (Annotated Bibliography)

In Edward Mullen (ed.), Oxford Bibliographies Online: Social Work. New York: Oxford University Press (2016)
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Social work has long been concerned with the respective roles of the social work profession and the social welfare system in addressing human needs. Social workers engage in needs assessment together with client systems. They provide and advocate for the needs of clients, as well enabling and empowering clients and communities to address their needs. They also advocate for social welfare benefits and services and overall social policies that take human needs into account. However, explicit ethical content was not present in earlier Codes of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Furthermore, until very recently, little published literature in peer-reviewed journals has human needs theories to guide models of social work practice or inform social work research. Universalistic assumptions about human needs have long been found within social work’s literature on human development (see Jani and Reisch 2011, under General Overviews). However, these assumptions were often inexplicit. They did not fully utilize theories of human need, which have long recognized that although human needs may be universal, they are addressed in culturally and environmentally specific manners. Also, in practice, social workers have often conflated human needs with the need for the services or benefits available at any one time. This bibliography will explore the history and evolution of the interdisciplinary body of human needs theory and research on which social work has drawn historically, with special attention to the recent surge in interest in human needs theories. In doing so, the entry will discuss a number of key debates that have arisen regarding needs, including whether they are universal or specific to particular cultures; what the relationship is between human needs, human rights, and social justice; and how to reconcile theories of human needs and of human capabilities.
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