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      Ethics in an individualized field of practice – Social pedagogy in the context of the neoliberal organization

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          Writing from a Danish social pedagogical perspective, the author raises concerns about the difficulty of developing and integrating ethical reflection within the organization in the context of neoliberalism. While ethical reflection in social pedagogy tends to focus on the relationship between practitioner and client, or the relationship between the profession and the general public, this article wishes to focus on how ethical reflection develops in the workplace on an everyday basis. The reason for this focus is that the culture and language of the workplace can have major consequences for how practitioners interpret their roles and how they interpret the official ethical code. Although this article addresses the problem from a Danish context, the author argues that the struggle to develop ethical reflection within the organization is a general concern in most professions in contemporary society. What makes this problem controversial within the Danish social pedagogical context is that the profession has a long tradition of working qualitatively with relationship-based-practices. In the neoliberal organization, mercantile logic undermines the ethical logic of relationship-based practices. This is due to the former’s emphasis on effectivity and the latter’s emphasis on responsibility. This article is a critique of what the author sees as the neoliberal organization’s inability to tackle this conflict of values. Furthermore, this article problematizes the ‘abstract individuality’ that neoliberal organizations produce, highlighting the fact that such individuality is inconsistent with responsibility. Finally, the author argues that, by reinterpreting the concept of reflective practice, the organization may develop a more concrete individuality that is more consistent with responsibility.

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          How social workers reflect in action and when and why they don’t: the possibilities and limits to reflective practice in social work

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            Reinterpreting Bildung in Social Pedagogy

             Bill Cleary (2019)
            This article strives to reinterpret educational values in social pedagogy to provide a basis for a critique of evidence-based practices. The article focuses on traditions and developments in social pedagogy from a Danish perspective. However, the author often refers to ‘Denmark and the other Nordic countries’ due to the fact that many of the traditions and developments mentioned have taken place throughout Scandinavia. The author argues that ‘the social’ or ‘sociality’ in social pedagogy is not an evidence-based concept and must therefore be continually open for interpretation by professionals and clients alike. Furthermore, it is argued that this continual interpretive ‘quest’ ( MacIntyre, 2003 ; Taylor, 1989 ) is a foundational practice in social pedagogy. As a response to the prevalence of ‘evidence-based practice’ and so-called scientific ‘hard facts’ within the social professions, the author argues for the necessity of interpretive spaces. The article explicates how the social pedagogical tradition in Denmark has built on the German educational tradition of Bildung, i.e. a broad, holistic, humanistic concept of education. The objective of Bildung is to educate not just toward knowledge but toward sociality. To work with Bildung within a social pedagogical framework, it is argued, practitioners need to be sensitive to historical, cultural and biographical narratives. However, such narrative sensitivity is only one side of the coin in working with Bildung in social pedagogy. It is equally important is to develop a culture that produces human presence ( Gumbrecht, 2004 ). Practitioners must therefore navigate between interpretation and presence. The author argues that the knowledge base that this type of practice builds on is phenomenological hermeneutics ( Ricoeur, 1976 ; van Manen, 2016 ). From this perspective the author discusses how the values of this tradition can be re-interpreted in a late modern society.
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              Medarbejderen i kærlighedens tegn


                Author and article information

                International Journal of Social Pedagogy
                UCL Press
                25 February 2020
                : 9
                : 1
                University College Copenhagen, Denmark; BCL@
                © 2020, Bill Cleary.

                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:

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                Pages: 12
                Conceptual Critique
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                Cleary, B. (2020). Ethics in an individualized field of practice – Social pedagogy in the context of the neoliberal organization. International Journal of Social Pedagogy, 9( 1): 4. DOI:


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                International Journal of Social Pedagogy
                Volume 9, Issue 1

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