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Identifying Moral Panic
The Discourse of Fear in Social Policy
Michael H. Eversman
ISBN: 978-0-87101-576-1. 2022. Item #5761. 208 pages.
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Earn 5.0 CEUs for reading this title! For more information, visit the Social Work Online CE Institute.

Social welfare policy reveals a lot about who we are: our values and symbols, our prejudices and fears, who has power and who is deviant, and who gets help and who gets controlled. As the United States shifts toward a multiracial, foreign-born, and religiously unaffiliated majority populace, we will continue to face existential questions around our collective identity amid conflict in defining social problems and policy solutions.

Using the sociological framework of moral panic – periods of exaggerated public fear triggered by high-profile incidents linked to feared social groups – Eversman illuminates historic and contemporary moral panic episodes to show how political discourse and stereotyping lead to policymaking and enforcement that maintain social inequalities. Those most affected by these harsh and reactionary policies tend to be vulnerable populations known as "folk devils" – young people, public assistance recipients, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, those with mental illness, and illicit drug users – groups that have long served as feared targets of moral condemnation.

As a core social policy text, this book emphasizes the social justice mission of professional social work and the need to stay vigilant amid structural inequalities rooted in labeling and otherism, allowing readers to recognize the patterns of moral panic discourse as constructed in various societal arenas, identify important media functions, and think critically about social problems.
Organization of the Book

Chapter 1: What Is Moral Panic?
Chapter 2: Social Deviance and Social Problems
Chapter 3: Media
Chapter 4: Welfare and Poverty
Chapter 5: Youth and Childhood
Chapter 6: Immigration
Chapter 7: Sex and Sexuality
Chapter 8: Mental Illness
Chapter 9: Illicit Drugs

About the Author
Michael Eversman, PhD, MSW, is an associate professor in the Department of Social Work at Rutgers University–Newark. His research interests include substance abuse, illicit drug policies, and alternatives to the War on Drugs as well as all things social work education. Eversman has more than 10 years of experience as a licensed clinical social worker providing substance abuse and mental health services to various client populations. As an undergraduate social work educator, Eversman teaches courses on social welfare policy and social work methods.
Considering the nature of current political debates, it is particularly important that issues related to claims making and moral panic be familiar to social workers and related professionals. Learning to understand social (in)justice and stereotyping is a crucial element of social work education, and this book provides a view of stereotyping that students don’t often receive in their education.

Gerald V. O’Brien, PhD
Professor, Social Work Department
Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

To hear an interview with the book’s author, Michael H. Eversman, listen to the NASW Social Work Talks podcast or watch the interview below!

Earn 5.0 CEUs for reading this title! For more information, visit the Social Work Online CE Institute.