The Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. XXIV, No. 2 (July 1963). 85 ...
The Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. XXIV, No. 2 (July 1963).
85
SOCIAL W O R K IN
CROSS-CULTURAL
HERBERT H . APTEKAR
PERSPECTIVE
Dr. Aptekar was in India for some time as a member of the team of
consultants to Indian Schools of Social Work, sent by International Cooperative
Mission. T h e author had had an opportunity of studying basic similarities and
differences between Social Work in the United States and India. "I think,
in fact," says Dr. Aptekar, "that Indian School Work can gain much through
psychological, psychiatric and psycho-analytical thinking, as well as from an
understanding of method in these fields... their (Indian) whole way of living
is more other-centered. "After posing a few questions, the author says that
Labour Welfare has not attained a true identity yet. He believes t h a t India
could demonstrate through its labour welfare programme what a tremendous
instrument for social good Indian Social Work can be.
Dr. Aptekar is Professor of Social Work Practice in the Florence Heller
Graduate School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare, Brandeis University,
Waltham, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
There are many definitions of social work, definitions of social work, there has been a
and as one examines them, one finds many surge of interest in recent years, on the part
interesting points of similarity and difference. of American social workers, in the cultural
A rather recent article by S. K. Khinduka components in social work practice, parti-
called "The Meaning of Social Work"1 cularly in the field of casework,2 and this
presents at least fifteen different definitions, has led to an emphasis upon ethnic differen-
including several from Indian sources. The ces rather than similarities. In the United
great majority, however, come from the States and Canada, as in India, there are
United States and Canada. One might many classes as well as religious differences,
expect, in view of this fact, that they would and differences in national background. It
be particularly reflective of the culture from is exceedingly important, therefore, for the
which they emanate. The fact that they are social worker in practice to know the
not strikingly so may be indicative of a certain implications of such differences, as far as
lack of concern with the cultural component attitudes and expectations on the part of the
in social work on the part of the authors client are concerned. The possibilities for
of these definitions. It may also point up misinterpretation and misunderstanding on
a conviction held by many social workres that the part of both client and worker are very
there are certain universal characteristics of great because of such differences, and this
professional social work and that these will is apt to be particularly true when client and
be found wherever and whenever one stops worker come from radically different religious
to look at his field of human activity.
or national backgrounds or from different
Whatever the reason may be for the like-
social and economic classes. The emphasis on
ness which one finds in many of the cultural difference and distinctiveness which
1S: K. Khinduka , ( e d . ) , Social Work in India, Jaipur , Sarvodaya Sahitya Samaj , 1962.
1962.
2Cf. Council on Social Work Education, Socio-cultural Elements in Casework, A Case Book
of Seven Ethnic Case Studies, 1955; also, Stanley H. King and Eleanor E. Cockevell,
Perception of Culture: Implications for Social Case-workers in Medical Settings, Monograph
V, National Association of Social Workers, 1960.

86
HERBERT H. APTEKAR
one finds in American social work literature this will be so for several reasons. One is
of the past decade is therefore very well that I have been fortunate enough to see
taken, It is fully justified from a methodo-
social work in different forms, in India and
logical standpoint and there are probably few
the United States, and still to recognize
professional social workers who would want basic similarities, and another is that I see
to quarrel with it.
the roots of this modern social institution
embedded deeply in what might be called
But social work is more than method. It the common human condition. Social work
is a. modern social institution, and it needs to
has emerged in modern societies as a social
be understood as such. This means that it institution because human beings have a need
must be understood in terms of its psycho-
for it. In the simpler societal state, it was
logical and cultural sources as well as in terms
not necessary to have such an organized
of its purpose and function in present day institution. But in primitive societies, the
societies all over the world. Unlike certain dependence of man upon man was recognized
other social institutions, such as the family, in many ways and primitive, if not profes-
social work did not always exist as a social sional, forms of social work did exist and exist
institution. As a recognized profession, social today. Even among animals, W. G. Atlee5
work has not yet come into its own in certain
notes "a sub-structure of social tendencies
modern societies, for example, the U.S.S.R.,3
leading to mass protection among bacteria,
although many forms of social work practice planarian worms, certain fish and simple
may be observed in these societies. In other
crustaceans." Crawford8 observed cooperative
societies its professional status varies greatly problem solving and food sharing among
and the education of social workers is in some
chimpanzees, and even as early an observer
instances more like preparation for the crafts as Kropotkin, whose interesting book, Mutual
or trades than it is for any of the recognized' Aid,7 stresses cooperative manifestations
professions.4 But despite such differences among animals and men, recognized a need
social work has taken root in most modern of men to act on the basis of "mutual aid"
societies. It has established itself quite as well as self-assertion. Charles Robert
firmly in relation to other social institutions Aldrich, an English psychologist, speaks of
and it probably will not be many years before
"an unconscious bio-morality, in which the
a modern society without a profession of primitive members of any social group co-
social work will be unthinkable.
operate instinctively."8
This does not mean that social work will
Much ethnographic evidence could be cited
be one and the same thing wherever one may
to show that precursors of modern social work
find it. What probably will occur is that it exist in primitive societies. For example, the
will take on many distinct forms in different Kaingaing of Brazil, an extremely hostile and
societies, as indeed it does today. But with suspicious people, among whom there was
all its varied forms, it probably will be clearly
a great deal of killing on a blood-feud basis,
recognizable as social work. I believe that nevertheless manifested a cooperative attitude
3Cf. Bernice Madison, "Welfare Personnel in the Soviet Union, " Social Work, Vol. V I I ,
No. 3, July, 1962.
4 Unite d Nations, Training for Social Work, Second Internationa l Survey, Par t I I , 1955.
5W. C. Atlee, The Social Life of Animals, New York, W. W. Norton, 1938.
6 M . P. Crawford, " T h e Cooperative Solving of Problems of Young Chimpanzees," Comparative
Psychology Monographs, 1933-34, p p . 1-78.
7Piotr A. Kropotkin; Mutual Aid, London , W. Hinemann , 1916.
8 Charles Robert Albrick, The Primitive Mind and Modern Civilization, London , 1931, p. 235.

SOCIAL WORK IN CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
87
with regard to the sharing of food. The is to say, an institutional way. Whether the
anthropologist Jules Henry tells Us:9
same means are used or not, whether given
"When a hunter kills an animal he rarely
the same names or not, intermediaries art
keeps it—even though he has no meat always used in complex societies and some
himself. Instead he gives it away to a organized or institutional scheme, involving
member of the band. He knows he will get
social distance, takes the place of direct, man-
a piece himself, but if it is a bird and the to-man behaviour shaped by custom.
recipient's family is large, it will be a little
We may say, therefore, that in one sense
piece. . . Sometimes the butcher is in-
social work has always existed. It has existed
fluenced by the amount of meat he knows as long as there has been human society,
to be in the hands of other people. .. .
as long as the needs of one individual being
relatives must be fed when they are have been met by others. What we now know
hungry; he must give to anyone who asks as social work, however, is quite a recent
him, and he must always have regard to phenomenon. But while it is recent, and in
the demands of hospitality."
many parts of the world first coming into
For our purposes, however, it may be being as a profession, it is still universal. Even
sufficient simply to point out that the modern those societies which do not recognize social
institution of social work has deep roots in work as a profession, which have no special
human experience, and that it reflects inborn name for it and no special type of academic
need, not only on the part of human beings, preparation, nevertheless do have it. In the
but perhaps all forms of life.
Soviet Union there are welfare workers of
various types, since there are many social
What all of this means, in other words, insurance and welfare schemes, but as yet
is that the social institution which we call there is no organized profession of social work,
social work has its roots in the psychological and no professional schools in which workers
and social, if not the biological needs of are trained. A need is felt for more thorough-
human beings. In simpler societies it is going training10 than is now offered, but as
possible to meet such needs without an yet there are no schools of social work.
organized institutional structure. Each man,
as it were, recognizes need on the part of
We thus see that social work, in essence,
the other and is prepared to meet it through has always existed. It is as though man can-
socially caste behaviour, or custom, rather not live without it, any more than he can
than through the development of an organized without water, food or air. Built as a social
institution or profession. In complex societies, being he needs both to help and be helped
social and psychological need cannot be met in social living. And that is what social work
in so direct a manner. Provision is therefore is all about. It is man's way of recognizing
made through the creation of a social institu-
that under any and all circumstances he must
tion or profession for the meeting of need be his brother's keeper—not just in a physical
through an intermediary. Doctors, nurses, sense but in a psychological and social one.
teachers, social workers—all intermediaries
Just as there cannot be a society of a single
come, into being and carry out special sex or single age group, so there cannot be
functions with institutional, or professional a social situation in which one does not find
equipment. They become society's agents for the essence of social work, the sexes helping
meeting the need in a specially tutored, which each other, age groups caring for one another.
9 Jules Henry, Jungle People, New York, J. J. Augustine, 1941.
10Ibid, p. 61 .

88
HERBERT H. APTEKAR
haves feeding have-nots, the more secure peoples in this respect is in their conscious
providing strength for the less secure, the attention to such need and the kind of in-
knowledgeable providing opportunity for the vestment they are willing to make in meeting
unknowing, the even-tempered allaying, it. All do, and must recognise it in one way
anxiety of the harassed. Life is full of social or another, and all have found some way, or
exigency and social work is man's way of ways of reacting to and dealing with the
meeting such exigency—no matter what he essential social needs which they recognise.
may call his way of doing it, how complex That way, whatever it is, is the essence of
that way may be, or how many forms it may social work. What I am saying here is that
take.
the essence of social work may be found
What this means is that social work is anthropologically. It may be found in what
not a Western institution. In Eastern countries inheres in human relationship, direct and
it is not simply an import, grafted on, as simple or distant and complex. It may be
it were, to an indigenous Eastern tree. It is found in any human society. The social
true that what we know as professional social institution, or the profession which we know
work has had its most complex and its most in modern societies is simply a development
organised development in the West. And it of or an elaboration upon a common theme.
is true too that social workers of other
Perhaps what we should now address
countries have sometimes looked upon social ourselves to is the kind of development or
work as a Western phenomenon which needs elaboration on the common human theme
only to be imported and adopted to be useful. which we know as Indian social work, and
I think this is an erroneous view of social perhaps we can best do that by comparing
work and that real understanding of the part it and contrasting it with social work as one
it can play in any society, and the form that finds it elsewhere. Certain similarities between
it should take, can come only from an Indian social work and American have been
appreciation of inherent human needs in all pointed up at various times and there can be
societies. No matter what the economic or no doubt that the two have had a close
political or social structure of a society might relationship. Both countries prepare people
be, there will be social exigencies and these for the profession through graduate training,
are what social work is intended to meet. whereas in most other countries academic
The significant questions, therefore, are (1) preparation for social work is under-
what special exigencies are there in all graduate.11 Many outstanding social workers
human life—what must one society do, as all in India have come to the United States for
societies must, to meet them and (2) special special preparation, and the Team of
needs do we as a society have—what special Consultants to Indian Schools of Social Work,
needs can social work serve at this time and sent by the International Cooperation
place? In other words, generic human need Administration and the Council on Social
arising out of the fact that we can live only Work Education, brought a great deal of
in relation to others, that is to say, in societies, American orientation to Indian social work.
may be postulated, and a means of meeting As a member of that team it was possible
such need which will be basically the same for me to study certain basic similarities,
in all societies must be developed. No people and certain differences between social work
can live without it—none wants to—and the in the two countries and I should like to offer
only essential difference one finds among some of my observations.
11 United Nations, Training for Social Work, Second and Third International Surveys, 1955,
1958,

SOCIAL WORK IN CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
89
We in the West live in what we have to be primarily psychological. It will rather
termed "the Freudian era." We live and be sociological—not individually centered but
breathe psychology, psychiatry and psycho-
socially oriented.
analysis. Newspaper and popular magazine
A true Indian social work in 1963, there-
articles, fiction, the theatre—all reflect our fore, should be, in a very real sense, even
preoccupation with mental processes. I do more culturally oriented than American
not mean to imply that there is something social work needs to be. I should like to
wrong with this, although it certainly has repeat that I am not speaking against psycho-
led to a kind of hyper-self-consciousness on logical understanding on the part of Indian
the part of many Westerners. In any case, social workers. I think they need a great
our social work is strongly influenced by this deal more of it than many Indian social
dominant trait in our culture, and it is not workers do have. But what they need most
surprising that the field of casework which of all, I think, is what is perhaps even more
has called more on psychiatry and psycho-
difficult to acquire, and that is a thorough
analysis than any other type of social work understanding of the culture in which they
should be our most developed form of live and work. I say this is one of the most
professional social work.
difficult of all things to acquire, because one
thing that we know through Freudian
India does not live in "the Freudian era." orientation is that people in a culture live
Psychology, psychiatry and psycho-analysis that culture on the whole unconsciously.
have not reached the same proportions Most of us are not aware of what our culture
and they do not play the same role in societal is actually like and we come to some under-
life that they do in the West. It is not that standing of it only through comparison and
I think India cannot gain from further contrast. Living in another culture for a
development of these fields, or that Indian period of time is rewarding in many ways.
social work should not be at all influenced One of its principal benefits, however, is the
by them. I think, in fact, that Indian social fact that it permits one to see his own culture
work can gain much through psychological, through different eyes, so to speak. For the
psychiatric and psycho-analytical thinking, as first time after returning to one's own culture
well as from an understanding of method in it is possible to see it as others who are
these fields. But Indian social work must work
oriented differently might see it. It is
with people who are not imbued with such possible to contrast it and compare it with
thinking and who do not necessarily want to something else, in other words to understand
be. They have other predominant interests it differently and more fully, perhaps more
and other concerns. In fact, their whole sympathetically.
way of living is more other-centered. Their
relationships within the family, in the small
In any case what the social worker in
group and in the community are less self-
India needs is the kind of understanding of
conscious and perhaps less ego-centric in his own culture which can come through
character. In any case, what the Indian anthropological study.12 He needs to under-
social work must do in working with an stand man in society. He needs understanding
Indian individual or group is to relate to of the individual, yes, but he also needs
what is a predominant interest or concern on understanding of the social orientation of
his or their part, and this will not be apt that individual, understanding of the
12Isabel Kelly, Suggestions for the Trainin g of Village-level Workers," Human Organization.
Vol. X X I , No. 4, Winter 1962-63.

90
HERBERT H. APTEKAR
individual in relation to his family, group child welfare worker or a family planning
and community. He needs the kind of worker. Except for a few instances, where
understanding of personality which can be Indian schools of social work are geared to
acquired through cross-cultural study.13 The generic training, and not to specialization,
horizons of American social workers can also Indian social work training is less generic
be broadened through such study. In my than American. This represents quite a
judgment, however, it is even more essential paradoxical situation, since on the whole
and more appropriate for the Indian social Western life is known for its highly special-
worker because of the highly social orientation ized character and Eastern life for its more
of Indian social life. Modern India is a general and less specialized nature. One can
socialistic society (in more than a political only speculate as to whether this will always
sense) and its social work must be so oriented. remain so. For the time being, however, it
would seem that what the Indian social
Now a question arises, namely, how does worker needs is wider prespective and not.
this apply to the practical working situation narrower. He needs to know human life in
in which the Indian social worker finds his own culture, and in others, by way of
himself. Since he is not, as he would be in comparison and contrast. He needs to think
America, a specialist in casework, or group psychologically to some extent, although
work or community organization, but rather probably not to as great an extent as in the
a combination of all three, since he is a West, and he also needs to think anthropo-
generic social worker, in other words, how logically, that is to say with understanding of
will he apply his understanding of Indian the demands made by his own and other
personal needs as contrasted with American, cultures upon the individual. He must also
or Russian or French?14 As an Indian understand the goals of his own culture, as
himself, will it be possible for him to see well as the direction in which it is moving.
Indian culture in operation, and while accept-
Is it tending to become more Westernized?
ing it and affirming it, still to maintain a Then what conflicts and anxieties are found
certain objective attitude towards it—to view in Western culture and what ones might he
it from a distance, as it were, and to see what
expect to find among his clients? Is there a
effect it has upon the individual and the trend to preserve its Eastern values while
group or community? One thing is certain taking on Western material aspects? If so,
and that is that he will not do so easily. It what effect does material change have upon
is equally certain, however, that he will need value-orientation? What is the position of
to do so in order to be as effective as he any individual vis-a-vis the group in such a
can be in any Indian social work situation.
situation?
I referred above to the generic character
of Indian social work. Yet as everybody
These are the essential questions which I
knows, Indian social work is more specialized believe Indian students of social work should
in some ways than the social work of other be addressing themselves to, because these are
countries. One acquires training as a labour questions they will have to contend with in
welfare officer, for example, or a medical any specialized field. Labour welfare workers
social worker, and in the process often does need to find their own answers to them and so
not acquire what one needs to know as a do medical social workers and child welfare
l3Bert Kaplan , ( e d . ) , Studying Personality Cross-Culturally, Evanston, III., Row-Peterson 1961.
14See Inkeles, Alex; Hanfman, Eugenia ; and Beier, Helen ; "Model Personality and Adjust-
ment to the Social socio-Political System" and "An American in Paris: Interviewing
Frenchmen." both in Kaplan, Bert, Studying Personality Cross-Culturally.

SOCIAL WORK IN CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
91
workers. Let a student find for himself a a people who are of idealistic or philosophical
satisfactory answer to such questions and he disposition, a people to whom cultural tradi-
will have something that will serve him in tions are exceedingly important, and yet it
good stead whatever he may do in Indian bears little of the influence of the psychologist
social work.
or the cultural anthropologist. In a sense it
Let us consider the specialities in Indian attempts to superimpose pragmatic, which is
social work and let us think in terms of the to say, Western values upon a non-pragmatic
kind of understanding of personality and of culture, and to the extent that it attempts
culture which is required in them. Let us to do so it cannot succeed. The only way
think too in terms of why these particular it will succeed is through adaptation of the
specialities are so important in Indian social pragmatic to the idealistic, the philosophical
work? What are the cultural purposes which and the traditional. This can only take place
they serve? Let us begin with rural welfare, when the worker is conscious of the meaning
or rural community development. Does of all these values in the life of the individual,
American, psychologically oriented social the group and the community, that is to say,
work, have anything to contribute to the when he is psychologically and culturally as
rural social worker in India? Does an under-
well as pragmatically oriented.
standing of culture, such as that afforded by
In the field of labour welfare some very
anthropology, have value for him?
interesting cultural questions arise. It is a
curious fact that in a highly industrialized
I am quite certain that an American society such as the United States there
trained in an American school of social work should be no field such as labour welfare.
could not do a satisfactory job as a village There are personnel officers in many large
level worker in India. I am doubtful too as industries and commercial establishments,
to whether an Indian, trained only in an but their function is quite different from that
American school of social work, could perform of the Indian labour welfare officer. They
satisfactorily as a village level worker. Both have no legal status and they are employed
would be oriented to a different type of by the owners of private business with the
culture and to different personality needs. I understanding that their orientation will be
am equally sure, however, that an Indian a business one rather than a social one. If
trained in a Community Development it can be social in the interests of the business
Institute in India, would make a better village there will be no objection. But it is not social
level worker, theoretically speaking, or better in the sense that there is legal recognition of
block development officer (were he to be societal obligation to be carried out through
employed as such) if he had the type of the employer, to the employee.
training which he could get in an American
school or social work, in other words, if he
There are many Indian labour welfare
had such psychological and cultural under-
officers who function as though they were
standing to complement his practical personnel officers, in the American sense of
training.* Rural social work as it is now the term. In so doing, however, they are not
carried out in India is on the whole non-
carrying out the intent or the spirit of the
psychological, and to a very great extent is legal and social institution known as labour
non-culturally oriented. It is concerned with welfare in India. There are many reasons
practical change and development, among why Indian labour welfare, which was
*The illustration is not particularly apt because of the practical considerations
involved in the employment of such persons. Theoretically speaking, however, it does apply.

9 2 H E R B E R T H . A P T E K A R
intended from the beginning to be socially puts in the hands of its agent, the labour
oriented, sometimes becomes distorted, one welfare officer. At present it is easy for the
might say, in the image of American business-
labour welfare officers to be confused as to
oriented personnel work. When it does, whose agent he is. This problem should be
however, it patterns itself after what we know
remedied by law. But law can only reflect
in America as "big business" rather than the orientation of a society. If its orientation
social work. I know there are many persons
is clear, then the law will be clear. If it is
in India who question whether labour welfare
not, if it is a mixture of antithetical interests,
is social work. In the process of becoming then the law will have the same character.
acquainted with this field during my own
stay in India, however, I found nothing in
Derived from English and European
it antithetical to my own American concep-
sources, rather than American, labour welfare
tions of social work, and a great deal in it in India has not attained a true identity as
that I could recognize as nothing else but yet. It is somehow almost characteristically
social work. It is proper, it seems to me, that
American in that it protects the interests of
labour welfare should be taught in schools business, yet it will not go the whole way, and
of social work and t h a t the specialized in English or European fashion, it attempts
institutes and schools of labour welfare should
to protect the interests of the employee.
be completely identified with the social What it should do is to protect the interests
institution of social work.
of society (it is social work in that sense)
and when it reaches that stage of develop-
ment, perhaps it will be characteristically
Why is it, then, that labour welfare becomes
Indian, rather than any mixture of English,
identified at times not with labour, or with European and American. I believe that India
welfare, but with the interests of business? could demonstrate through its labour welfare
This is a phenomenon, as I see it, which program what a tremendous instrument for
must be understood in terms of cultural social good Indian social work can be. In
mixture. It is a phenomenon with a histori-
order to do so, however, it will have to clarify
cal background and also a political and the labour welfare program, through legal
economic one, rather than a pure intellectual
means. It will have to overcome some of
or educational one. Intellectually and educa-
the cultural confusion which surrounded its
tionally there can be no question that labour
origin, set aside influence from any other
welfare is social work. Historically, politically
society and think in terms of the purpose
and economically one can see how the less which labour welfare can serve in India, and
stalwart labour welfare officer might find under Indian social and economic conditions.
himself caught between the interests of his Payment of the labour welfare officer by the
business employer and his employee clientele. employer will then end, and instead payment
The legal set-up of labour welfare in India by the government, whose agent the labour
would be m u c h clearer and simpler and welfare officer is, will be instituted. This
certainly lead to more effectiveness if the will give the labour welfare officer a clear
business employer were defined as a client mandate, it will establish the employer and
too. T h e labour welfare officer would then the employee as his clients, and it will leave
become a government employee, responsible no doubt in anybody's mind as to whose
to government and to those whom the govern-
agent he is. He will be the agent of society
ment means to serve, namely the employees,
and he will therefore be, in the truest sense
with the social work instruments which it of the term, a social worker. Nowhere would

SOCIAL WORK IN CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
93
this be more appropriate than in the personality, namely, the closeness and security
socialistic society which is India.
of Indian family life.
In the realm of child welfare one meets
The Indian child care institution must
with an extremely interesting phenomenon in be viewed, therefore, as a kind of cultural
India, namely the prevalence of institutional transposition. It is not indigenous in the
care. Is it not interesting that in a culture sense that it reflects the character of modern
which stresses the closeness of family life, the Indian social life, as the kibbutz, for example,
principal social work provision for the care does in Israel. India is a nation of families,
of dependent children should be a non-
not of individuals or institutions, and one
familial one? There are, of course, many might therefore expect that Indian child care
reasons why the child care institution is would partake of and reflect this very basic
predominant in Indian child welfare at fact in Indian life. Perhaps Indian child care
present. There is the economic one, there is of the future will do so. Perhaps some of the
the lack of room in Indian households, and present Indian child care institutions will
there is the lack of a tradition of foster home become family institutions (as certain
care. Nevertheless, the child care institution mental hospitals now being operated along
would seem to be a kind of cultural anomaly experimental lines have in the West) and
in India. In some respects, at least, it is non-
families rather than individuals will move
Indian. I do not mean to suggest, even into them. When the child is without a family,
remotely, that some fine work is not being perhaps he will be absorbed into such a
done in Indian child care institutions. I family. In time foster home care may flour-
know that it is, and I admire profoundly the ish, as it has in other societies. In any case it
spirit with which I have seen Indian child would seem that the present picture of Indian
care workers go about their work. But it has child care, with the congregate institution
always seemed to me that what they are doing-
predominant, will evolve in the future, and
is, in a certain sense at least, non-Indian. it is to be hoped that in doing so it will take
The institution with its necessarily highly on the character not of a cultural import,
formal character substitutes structure for but rather one which is reflective of the very
relationship. It is true that certain social nature of Indian social life. Nearly all societies
structures of the past, the caste system, for have cultural manifestations which are
example, were characteristic of Indian life. tangential rather than indigenous to the
But it is also true that much of modern culture itself. They somehow remain outside
Indian life is built upon propositions contrary the mainstream of societal life and they are
to the principle of rigid social structure. It quite like the tangent on a circle. The present-
is built upon principles of fluidity and mobi-
day Indian child care institution is like that.
lity, which are contrary to the formal As it undergoes transformation, perhaps it
character of the child care institution. In the will fit better within the circle of Indian
better Indian institutions one finds a great culture.
deal of flexibility and freedom. But no institu-
tion can permit the kind of freedom which
This brings us to a consideration of
the Indian child in a family setting several forms of social work which have
experiences. And no matter how interested or become exceedingly prominent in Western
how supporting and understanding the worker cultures and to some consideration of the
in an institutional setting may be, he cannot role they might play in India. I am referring
provide that essential ingredient of Indian to medical social work, child guidance, and

94
HERBERT H. APTEKAR
family casework and counselling.* Of the other cultures, and developed in accordance
three, medical social work has progressed with Indian societal needs.
farthest in India. There are few child guid-
A word should be mentioned about the
ance clinics and few family casework agencies. field of family planning which might be
Undoubtedly the future will bring a consi-
considered as a special form of medical
derable development in all these fields, and social work. In the West family planning is
Indian social work education will have to not regarded as a field of social work. In
modify itself to meet the needs of these fields India, however, it is an exceedingly important
as they develop. For the time being, however, one. How can work in a field be regarded
one can see Indian medical social work as as social work in the one case but not in the
representing something in the - nature of other? The answer, it seems to me, is to be
universal social need in modern times and it found in the conditions under which practice
is perhaps logical that it should develop takes place. In the United States, family
fastest. Medical social work is always planning is long established, fully accepted,
practised in relation to physical as well as except by certain religious groups who
social and psychological need, whereas as officially oppose it, or at least oppose the
child guidance and family casework or use of certain methods, information is
counselling are concerned primarily with the voluntarily sought and there is little sense
social and psychological. In the long run of problem or social struggle in connection
however, child guidance and family social with it. Husbands and wives are likely to
work have a significant contribution to make be of the same opinion, they are supported
to the social welfare of a nation and it may in their opinions by cultural sanction and
be expected that these fields will develop as the whole matter reduces itself to a non-
they have in the West. When they do so, problematical one. In India, on the other
however, they probably will have more of the hand, family planning is distinctly a
character of importation than of indigenous problematical area for many families.
cultural development. There is, of course, Husbands and wives are often not in accord
nothing wrong with importing something with respect to it, there is doubt in their
good. And child guidance and family social minds on many grounds, resistances are
work may be looked upon as being good, in likely to be prominent in the situation and
India, as well as in the West. They should the skills of social worker as well as those of
be looked upon as products of cultural other professionals are needed. Family
diffusion, however, accepted as such, adapted planning in India is social work and Indian
to Indian culture, differentiated in terms of schools of social work ought to give attention
the specific Indian content of practice in to the field and help to develop personnel
these fields as contrasted with the content of for it, with certain knowledge that they are
*These particular forms of social service are chosen for collective treatment here,
but my doing so does not imply that other forms of social work such as the correctional
field, for example, are not important in India. Nor does it imply a greater concern on my part
with what may be done under private sponsorship and on a limited scale, as compared with
what may be done under government auspices and on the widest possible scale. Within
the confines of an article one can deal only with a limited number of fields of social work..
At least fifty different forms of social work are distinguished by the United Nations.15 Some
are prominent in certain countries and others take on greater significance elsewhere. T h e
fields chosen here permit us to observe certain similarities and contrasts.
1 5 Unite d Nations, The Development of National Social Service Programs, Unite d Nations
Publication, Sales No. 60, IV, 1.

SOCIAL WORK IN CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
95
making an exceedingly important contribution which must be faced are more complex and
in this way. The fact that it is not an an organized profession—a social institution
important part of social work in the West called social work in most cultures of the
should have nothing to do with the full world—is developed to deal with them in
development of this particular form of specialized ways. The ways of social work
social work in India.
are many and various, and they probably
always will be. This is because cultures,
Having considered very briefly some of the societies, are many and various, and what is a
forms of social work with their likenesses and vast social problem in one society may not be
differences in two cultures, primarily, it is any at all in another. But each society has its
perhaps pertinent to ask now, what is the problems and its characteristic ways of
essence of social work? Can we arrive at an handling them. Occasionally one society tries
all-inclusive definition, one which would be to handle its problems in another society's
valid in any time or place, one which trans-
way, just as individuals do not always act
cends the bounds of culture? I do not know in a manner that is true to themselves. In
whether it is possible, or even desirable, to do the long run, however, each society must
so, and if given such a task I do not know ask itself, what is our characteristic way of
exactly where I would choose to put my own handling this problem? Is it a good way and
emphasis. I am inclined to think that it would do we want to perpetuate it? Is it a way
be, however, upon what I regard as the in- which requires specialized knowledge and
herent problem of social living, upon the understanding of particular social problems?
relation of man to man, which I think must If so, the next step is to entrust the problem
always involve problem, no matter what to society's organized arm for meeting such
cultural forms there may be for dealing problems, namely, social work. This means
with or affecting such problems. Social work that social work appears in many different
has developed everywhere as a means of forms in many different places. It will always
which man is aware of. Without a problem, be an organized way of meeting problems
perceived as such, there is no social work. of the particular culture, however, a self-
social work comes into the scene. In simpler chosen way, and a way that emphasizes well-
cultures, it does so unprofessionally and being in man to man relationships. In other
through behaviour reflective of societal mores. words, it will always be characteristically
In complex cultures, the social problems human.
Dr. Aptekar in his paper has made the agent, the labour welfare officer. At present it is
easy for the labour welfare officer to be confused
following, among other, observations about as to whose agent he is" and, later on, "derived
the labour welfare officer in the Indian from English and European sources, rather than
American, labour welfare in India has not attained
setting :
a true identity as yet. It is somehow almost
" T h e legal set-up of labour welfare in India characteristically American in that it protects the
would be much clearer and simpler and interests of business, yet it will not go the whole
certainly lead to more effectiveness if the busi-
way, and in English or European fashion, it
ness employer were defined as a client too. T h e attempts to protect the interests of the employee.
labour welfare officer would then become a What it should do is to protect the interests of
government employee, responsible to government society (it is social work in that sense) and when
and to those whom the government means to it reaches that stage of development, perhaps it
serve, namely, the employees, with the social work will be characteristically Indian, rather than any
instruments which it puts in the hands of its mixture of English, European and American."

96
L. S. KUDCHEDKAR
The following comments relate to these working in a settlement house in Bombay.
observations:
This naturally involved two serious draw-
backs, namely, that professional social work
Rarely does one read in social work was primarily urban in its origin and content
literature such a penetrating and profound and foreign in its philosophy and technique.
analysis of the nature and scope of social It can therefore hardly be in tune with the
work itself in the cross-cultural context, culture pattern.
presented with so clear an understanding
and such deep sympathy. It is an illuminating
Dr. Aptekar's analysis of labour welfare
and refreshing study, and the examination of officers and medical social workers is
the theme is of genuine interest and rare enlightening, but his suggestion that the
quality which can truly serve as a model to former should be paid by Government so
social work educators in India.
as to make them social workers in the truest
sense of the term is rather strange. But
But there are some observations and by the same token, all social workers will
generalisations which are basically question-
have to become government servants, if
able in the context of the present-day employers must also become clients of social
Indian situation and the field of professional workers. Even in private hospitals or welfare
social work as it has developed in the course institutions there are employers as in industry
of its first 25 years since 1936. The paradox or business. It is not the paymaster, but the
of professional social work as seen by role and status of the professional social
Dr. Aptekar is partly due to the fact that worker which decide the nature of professional
the birth and early growth of professional service whether in industry, hospitals, prisons
social work in India was not the product of or welfare institutions. There is no doubt
indigenous inspiration.. It took place under that both labour welfare and personnel
the influence of an American missionary service are part of social work.
L. S. Kudchedkar,
. Lecturer in Personnel Development
and Management, T a t a Institute of Social Sciences.
Dr. Aptekar's paper raises certain very various limitations. The rural background;
significant points regarding the development the difficulty in adjustment to industrial
and practice of labour welfare in Indian urban life; the lack of education and
cultural complex. The diversity in orientation organisation and the economic vulnerability
of various parties engaged in industrial are among its major maladies. Labour
activity towards this institution, the legal welfare in this contact has to be worker
basis and the functions of the labour welfare centred and labour oriented.
officer are a product of interaction of
The creation of a legal halo round the
peculiar Socio-cultural forces:
institution of labour welfare has been
The orientation of the welfare practitioner considerably influenced by the Socio-cultural
is influenced and conditioned by the overall factors peculiar to India. The initiation of
existing social policy. Welfare services in an organised legal base for labour welfare
India are meant for traditionally under-
in India can be traced back to the year 1948
privileged groups or for the handicapped when the vastly amended Indian Factories
individuals. Labour, as a class, suffers from Act was adopted. The importance given to

O . P . DlNGRA
97
labour welfare was in consonance with the to conflicting demands—is not denied. Also
crucial role that workers have to play in the the discharging of personnel and industrial
economic and social advancement of a nation relations functions by the labour welfare
affluent with human resource.
officer place him in an unenviable and
delicate situation. But these difficulties are,
In India a choice had to be made out of in the nature of overhead costs of this
the two available alternatives for development ambitious experiment—more so in the initial
of labour welfare, viz: (a) persuasive stages. These demands will continue to be
education of the industrialists, and (b) made in the present context of our industrial
laying down a minimum standard of welfare complex. If the stage of development of
services through legislation. Legislation is not industry in the country is important, if the
an ideal means of introducing an innovation. employers' attitude towards this institution is
But in the Indian context, when other areas important and if the return that they would
are being planned and directed through state like to have for investing in employing a
action, legislation in the field of labour labour officer is important, we will have to
welfare is in ideological conformity with the sacrifice—at least for a transitory period—
overall social policy.
the clarity, precision and definiteness about
The functions of the labour welfare the functions of a labour welfare officer. The
officer have to be considered in the above socio-economic forces today demand that the
perspective. The experimental nature of the welfare officer should be a multiple
legal innovation required the building up of functionary. If the institution of labour
a proper environment for its implementation. welfare has to function within this social,
The multi-functional nature of a welfare economic and cultural framework, it will
officers' job in industry—leading sometimes have to satisfy these demands.
O. P. Dingra,
Lecturer, Delhi School of Social Work.