On Toleration in Social Work

Thomas M. Besch
Wuhan University
Toleration is one of many responses toward diversity and difference. With the growing diversity, the theme of toleration has often taken center stage in discussions of multiculturalism and social pluralism. Nonetheless, it has not received much attention in the social work profession. Social workers often encounter situations in which they face a choice between tolerating and not tolerating. We argue that toleration is a legitimate and relevant topic in social work discourse. To make this point, first, this paper discusses different conceptions of toleration. Then, it demonstrates its relevance to social work and explores a potential benefit of including the idea of toleration in social work discourse. Social work code of ethics implicitly supports toleration, or at least respect-toleration and esteem-toleration. Incorporating toleration in social work discourse may help social workers to better cope with or reduce ethical stress and disjuncture.
Keywords Toleration  Diversity  Ethics of Social Work
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