Social Work with Rural Peoples: Theory & Practice


144 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-919573-22-3






Winifred M. O'Rourke was a writer and journalist in Saskatoon.


The title of this book could lead a reader to think that it is a handbook on how to do social work in the context of rural people. It is, however, much more than a guide for social workers. It is an analysis of socio-economic development through history and its effect on different lifestyles — lifestyles that provoke the need for different approaches by the helping services.

Ken Collier, the author, was a social worker for fifteen years, mostly in the rural areas. For two years he worked for the community of Cumberland House, the oldest settlement in Saskatchewan. Since 1975, as a member of the University of Regina Faculty of Social Work, he has taught in many towns in rural Saskatchewan.

In the Foreword, Fred L. Pineus, of the University of Maryland, refers to a “new generation of radical groups and individuals who emerged within the profession in the 1960’s and early 1970’s who produced devastating critiques of their professions” (p. 11). He goes on to say that practical solutions were vague.

The author in the introduction states that his approach is “clearly Marxist in conception. While it is an approach not without critics, it offers analytical tools for understanding social relations which, in my view no other theoretical base provides” (p.25). He adds that the Marxist approach is vulnerable to distortion and that there are many elements other than economics in the make-up of any culture.

At the beginning of the industrial society, the “helping services” came from churches and private agencies. Today, social work has grown into a profession. Once a movement for reform, organizing those exploited by the industrial system or, on the other hand, attempting to reform the administrative system, now “social work has found its niche. It has become one of the institutions that help to maintain the power bases and advance the social order” (p.54). Since it has a city base, social work can relate easily to other institutions. But the author maintains that social work in the agricultural and remote communities is still in a primitive stage. The second half of the book deals with the practice of social work in the agricultural society. Social workers must understand the world view of both the agricultural society and the native societies and how they work. Without that understanding, any attempt to solve the problems of this agricultural society is likely to antagonize not only the “client” but the whole community.

The author provides notes, a wide bibliography, and index. Both professional social workers and volunteers in helping relationships will benefit from reading this book.


Collier, Ken, “Social Work with Rural Peoples: Theory & Practice,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023,