chapter  8
15 Pages

Finnish redefinitions of the ‘social’ in social work An eroding ethical discourse?

ByPÄIVI NIIRANEN-LINKAMA

In this chapter I look at the construction of professional expertise of social work in Finland in the context of global and local changes at many levels of society, education and work. I examine the meanings, definitions and redefinitions of the ‘social’ in social work education in upper secondary vocational education and training, referred to here as the polytechnics. The key idea here is to presuppose the ‘social’ as a changing concept in society. The underlying hypothesis is that of Wagner’s (2001): when a society changes then the concept of ‘social’ will also change. My interest principally focuses on how the older welfare state discourse of the ‘social’ is being disturbed and how a new discourse is being created within the educational and occupational orders of social work in the polytechnics. As Henriksson (2008) argues, globalisation and welfare state change reconfigure welfare service occupations and education, thus challenging professional identities and belongings. I take a closer look at how the Finnish vocational teachers, professionals and students of social work define the ‘social’ in their work and how the variety of these meanings are connected to the changes in welfare service institutions and the practices of social work.