Settlements and guilds of help
Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Social work is concerned with meeting the basic and complex needs of all people, with a particular focus on those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. Social work draws from various areas of knowledge, such as psychology, sociology, health, political science, community development, law, and economics, to engage with people and structures to address life challenges and enhance well-being. The ultimate goals of social work include the improvement of people’s lives, alleviation of biopsychosocial concerns, empowerment of individuals and communities, and the achievement of social justice.
Social work has a long history of expanding its scope and methods to respond to the changing needs and challenges of human societies in different historical and geographical contexts. One of the ways that social work has expanded its horizons is by learning from and collaborating with other forms of human organization and development, such as settlements and guilds of help. Settlements refer to the places where people live, work, and interact, while guilds of help refer to the associations of people who share a common occupation, interest, or purpose. Both settlements and guilds of help have played important roles in shaping the social, economic, political, and cultural aspects of human communities.
Settlements can be classified into different types according to their size, location, function, and structure. Some of the main types of settlements are:
- Rural settlements: These are settlements that are located in areas with low population density and are mainly engaged in agricultural activities. Rural settlements can be further divided into dispersed settlements, where houses are scattered over a large area; nucleated settlements, where houses are clustered around a central point; and linear settlements, where houses are arranged along a road or a river.
- Urban settlements: These are settlements that are located in areas with high population density and are mainly engaged in industrial, commercial, and service activities. Urban settlements can be further divided into towns, cities, and metropolises, depending on their size and influence. Urban settlements usually have a complex and hierarchical structure, with a central business district (CBD), residential areas, industrial areas, recreational areas, and transport networks.
- Spontaneous settlements: These are settlements that are formed by people who migrate to an area without any prior planning or authorization. Spontaneous settlements are often found in developing countries, where people move from rural to urban areas in search of better opportunities. Spontaneous settlements usually lack basic services and infrastructure, such as water, sanitation, electricity, roads, and health care. They are also vulnerable to environmental hazards, such as floods, landslides, fires, and diseases.
Guilds of help are associations of people who form for mutual aid and protection and for the furtherance of their professional interests. Guilds of help emerged in medieval Europe as a response to the social and economic changes that occurred after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Guilds of help can be classified into two main types:
- Merchant guilds: These are associations of all or most of the merchants in a particular town or city. Merchant guilds established a monopoly of trade in their locality or within a particular branch of industry or commerce; they set and maintained standards for the quality of goods and the integrity of trading practices; they worked to maintain stable prices for their goods and commodities; and they sought to control town or city governments in order to further their interests.
- Craft guilds: These are associations of all the artisans and craftsmen in a particular branch of industry or commerce. Craft guilds regulated the production and distribution of goods; they ensured the quality and quantity of goods; they controlled the entry and training of new members; they provided welfare and assistance to their members; and they defended their rights and privileges against outsiders.
Settlements and guilds of help have influenced each other in various ways throughout history. For example:
- Settlements have provided the physical space and the social environment for the formation and functioning of guilds of help. Guilds of help often had their own buildings, such as halls, churches, or warehouses, where they held their meetings, ceremonies, or storage facilities. Guilds of help also contributed to the development and improvement of settlements by building roads, bridges, walls, fountains, hospitals, schools, or other public works.
- Guilds of help have shaped the economic and social structure and dynamics of settlements. Guilds of help created a division of labor and a specialization of skills among their members; they fostered a sense of identity and solidarity among their members; they promoted trade and commerce within and between settlements; they supported charitable and religious causes; and they participated in political and civic affairs.
Social workers has learned from and collaborated with settlements and guilds of help in various ways. For example:
- Social work has adopted some of the principles and practices of settlements and guilds of help, such as mutual aid, collective responsibility, social justice, human rights, respect for diversity, quality standards, and professional development.
- Social work has intervened in settlements and guilds of help to address the needs and challenges of their members, such as poverty, discrimination, exploitation, conflict, violence, health issues, education issues, and environmental issues.
- Social work has partnered with settlements and guilds of help to promote social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Social work has supported the formation and functioning of settlements and guilds of help as forms of community organization and development. Social work has also advocated for the rights and interests of settlements and guilds of help in relation to the larger society.
In conclusion, settlements and guilds of help are two concepts that relate to the organization and development of human communities in different historical and geographical contexts. Settlements and guilds of help have played important roles in shaping the social, economic, political, and cultural aspects of human societies. Social work has expanded its horizons by learning from and collaborating with settlements and guilds of help in various ways. Social workers has adopted some of their principles and practices; intervened in their needs and challenges; and partnered with them to promote social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people.