The profession and scientific discipline of Social Pedagogy or Social Work can be described as a socially institutionalised reaction to typical psychosocial coping problems resulting from socially induced disintegration. (cf. Lothar Böhnisch 2012).

It deals with the consequences of disintegration in the world and in individual societies, reflecting on its own location, examining in particular the institutional helping and caring, but also the group-related and individual-subjective handling of critical life events, precarious life situations, life worlds in crisis, social risks, informal/non-formal educational opportunities and life course-specific development challenges. Social Pedagogy or Social Work also refers to a proven and very broad professional field of action in a researching, advising, developing and training capacity.

The term Social Work encompasses the historically different and formerly separate fields of Social Work and Social Pedagogy. The history of Social Work is more connected with the development of poor relief and welfare work, that of Social Pedagogy more with education (of children and young people), youth movement, youth welfare and youth care. Since the 1990s at the latest, the tendency has prevailed to regard Social Pedagogy and Social Work as largely identical. The professional activity is referred to as Social Work, the scientific discipline as the science of Social Work.

Nevertheless, following the traditions of organisational classification, the subject was often still called Social Pedagogy at universities and offered in faculties of Educational Sciences; at universities of applied sciences (formerly: universities of applied sciences) the designation Social Work predominated for a long time, but this is increasingly being replaced by Social Work, there both inserted into organisational areas called social welfare or social science.

At the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Social Work/Social Pedagogy is housed in the Institute for Pedagogy and thus assigned to the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences. This corresponds to our self-conception of the subject, which is very much concerned with the relationship between society and the individual and therefore combines questions of social and individual science.

Pedagogy and Educational Sciences are terms for a subject that traditionally deals in particular with the theory and practice of education and upbringing of children and young people. The areas of day-care centres, schools and families are in the foreground here. However, in the history of the subject with the emphasis on education, the thematisation, research and support of lifelong educational processes has increasingly taken place, whereby both children and adolescents as well as adults of all age groups come into view.

In Social Work/Social Pedagogy, which from its ethical presuppositions and its scientifically founded 'self-claims', even if not necessarily always in its prevailing practice and institutional constitution, strives for 'more social justice' and wants to do justice to people in stressful living conditions and precarious life situations, specific difference-sensitive or diversity-conscious approaches have developed in recent years. These require professionals and volunteers to be particularly attentive to socially significant lines of difference, associated practices of differentiation and relations of power and inequality, as well as an awareness of their own involvement in discriminatory discourses and structures. The critical discussion of and examination of constructions of 'large groups' along categories such as class/class, gender/sexuality, ethnicity/culture/nation, age/generation and disability/impairment is one of the core tasks of the subject.


  • Böhnisch, Lothar (2012): Lebensbewältigung. Weinheim: Juventa.
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