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Inequality as a social pedagogical question

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International Journal of Social Pedagogy

UCL Press

social pedagogy, inequality, equality, Therborn, agency, belonging

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      In his book The Killing Fields of Inequality (2013/2014), sociologist Göran Therborn brought together empirical data, theoretical reflections and historical and political analysis in order to outline an analytical tool for understanding the complex phenomenon of inequality. In this article, it is asked whether Therborn’s framework, rooted in the idea that social inequality is a social construction that may be transformed, could provide one possible analytical tool that could help professionals in the area of social pedagogy to better understand inequalities and ways to combat them. Following the orientation of critical social pedagogy, it is argued that, in order to better direct the planning and implementation of theoretical and practical work aiming at taking steps towards a more egalitarian future, it is necessary to see the connectedness of individual hardships with wider and deeper societal structures of inequality. The first part of the article offers a short historical analysis of inequality as a question of social pedagogy. The second part is dedicated to Therborn’s theoretical framework of the different dimensions of inequality. It is introduced within a social pedagogical context. Different mechanisms leading to inequality are also outlined, together with their counterforces, or the mechanisms producing equality. Using Therborn’s framework as an analytical tool, a suggestion is formulated on how his theory could be applied as a general framework for work in the field of social pedagogy attempting to prevent and alleviate social exclusion and inequality in society. The article outlines a set of ‘social pedagogical tools for equality’, the use of which should be contextualised within a well-rooted conceptual understanding of inequality.

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            Author and article information

            Degree Programme in Social Pedagogy, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, 70211 Kuopio, Finland;
            Author notes
            [* ]Correspondence: sanna.ryynanen@
            International Journal of Social Pedagogy
            Int. J. Soc. Pedagog.
            UCL Press
            30 January 2019
            : 7
            : 1
            © 2019, Sanna Ryynänen and Elina Nivala.

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited • DOI:

            Pages: 15
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            Ryynänen, S. & Nivala, E. (2019). Inequality as a social pedagogical question. International Journal of Social Pedagogy, 7( 1): 8. DOI:


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