The history of the development of social work as a professional discipline from its early beginnings in the 1900s to the present time has exhibited two contradictory trends. Sometimes social work has seemed to be the conscience of society. During other periods it seems to have been an apologist for the status quo, devoting its efforts to adjusting clients to the existing social institutions. These trends can be identified by the activity of social work during changing historical periods in the United States as well as by the professional leaders associated with these eras.
* Associate Professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work, Syracuse, New York.