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The concept of social pedagogy consists of two parts. The principal term is ‘pedagogy’
and the qualifying one is ‘social’. The word ‘social’ is used in different ways and
contexts. Therefore, there are also many kinds of semantic interpretations of the
concept of social pedagogy. This paper discusses discrepancies of the concept of social
pedagogy, paying attention especially to different uses of the qualifying attribute
‘social’. Attention is paid to varieties of theoretical self-conceptions of social
pedagogy within the history of the concept.
Correspondence to: Professor Juha Hämäläinen, Department of Social Sciences, University
of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, Kuopio, Finland. Email:
*Juha Hämäläinen is Professor of Social Work, especially Social Pedagogy, and Head of the Department
of Social Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland. He has held professorial
appointments as Professor of Social Work (acting) in the Catholic University of Eichstätt
(1995-1996) and as Professor of Social Pedagogy (visiting) at the University of Tartu,
Estonia (1996–2001). He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Ostrava,
Czech Republic (2006). His research interests include especially the following areas:
history and theory of social pedagogy and social work; child, youth and family research,
particularly in respect of child welfare, social exclusion of young people, parenting,
and policy-making; social ethics; and welfare systems and professional practices,
especially with regards to theory building based on comparative research methodologies.
He has served in a several academic positions of trust and expertise at home and abroad.
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