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Le Guin was one of the pioneers of a sub-genre of science fiction known as feminist science fiction, which examines feminist themes such as equality among the sexes and the distribution of power in society, biological and gender differences based on reproduction, and the relationship of gender to social organization. In the Left Hand of Darkness, Le Guin creates a utopian society in which gender differences play no role in determining power and position as a means of reflecting on the relationships in human society.
Her feminist themes are nonetheless intertwined with her other social, political and religious/spiritual concerns in a way that has drawn criticism from some feminists. Unlike some science fiction, Le Guin's work is less concerned with the importance of technological change and development on human culture, and more interested in using alternative models of society to examine the social, gender and spiritual dimensions of human society.
Social work, as a profession or pursuit, originated in the nineteenth century, beginning primarily in the United States and England in response to societal problems that resulted from the Industrial Revolution. The settlement movement's emphasis on advocacy and case work became part of social work practice. During the twentieth century, the profession began to rely more on research and evidenced-based practice as it attempted to improve its professionalism. Eventually an increasing number of educational institutions began to offer social work programs.
As ideas of social responsibility developed, social work became more and more integral to the functioning of contemporary society. Although originally instituted as emergency measures in times of dire need, social work is now considered an essential function that not only saves the weak and needy but also supports the general health of society.