Last updated December 11, 2019
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Social Work Matters

Metaphor Analysis in Public Policy and Private Practice

A Social Work Perspective

Gerald V. O’Brien

ISBN: 978-0-87101-548-8. 2019. Item #5488. 152 pages.

Paperback $32.99   ePub $28.05

In this time of unparalleled partisanship and negativity, it is impossible to ignore the prevalence and impact of metaphors in the news, politics, and social media. Welfare recipients are “parasites” who “breed” too many children. Those who are in the justice system are “monsters” and “animals” to be feared. Immigrants are “illegals” who are “flooding” our borders. The “War on Drugs” ensures those with addiction are the enemy. When these negative perspectives or feelings are part of the public discourse, they adversely affect marginalized populations and reinforce public policies that oppress and disparage such groups. Furthermore, they can discourage people who care the most—including social workers—to disengage from public discourse.

In this unique and important work, O’Brien encourages the reader to educate, engage, and make the connection between individual work and policy. Focusing on the emotionally charged issues associated with social work, he shows the reader how metaphors are used to oversimplify complex issues like poverty, immigration, and mental health. He demonstrates how the overt and covert use of dehumanization, objectification, “positive” stereotyping, and fear- and disgust-based metaphors shape public opinion and policy and can damage an individual’s self-worth and perception.