Replacement of Religious Motives and Values by Secular Professionalism in Social Care: Example of Finland

Juha Hämäläinen, Piia Puurunen, Mari Suonio, Raija Väisänen

Juha Hämäläinen is a Professor of social work and social pedagogy at the University of Eastern Finland. His research interest is in the history of ideas and theory of social welfare, social pedagogy, social work, and child welfare policies. He also serves as an appointed Visiting Professor at the University of Ostrava, the Czech Republic, and a Vice-Director of the Centre for Child Protection Research at Fudan University, the People’s Republic of China. He is a member of the Research Council for Culture and Society at Academy of Finland appointed by the Council of State of Finland.

Piia Puurunen is employed as a teacher, researcher and as an administrator in student services at the University of Eastern Finland. Her recent PhD dissertation, titled The Conception of Social Work in Jane Addams’s Thought, received a national award from the Research Association of Social Work. Her research interests involve the history of ideas in social care and social work. She has published on hermeneutical research and hope-related practice in social work.

Mari Suonio is a university teacher in social work at the University of Eastern Finland serving as a coordinator of national studies of social work in Finland. Her area of expertise is on prison studies and social work with offenders. She has published over 20 publications, including co-authoring the first Finnish book on social work and social support in criminal justice. She has worked several times as a visiting researcher at Keele University. In addition, she has held several positions of trust related to her academic activities (e.g., temperance organization and trade union).

Raija Väisänen is a university lecturer in social work (emerita) at the Department of Social Sciences, University of Eastern Finland. Her research interest is focused on working life studies in social field, mainly on safety and insecurity in working life, coping at work and occupational wellbeing. Working life research has also involved international research cooperation. In addition, she specializes particularly in adult social work research. She also has historical research focused on the social status of people with disabilities, social rehabilitation, and preventive substance abuse. These topics are still the main subjects of her historically oriented research.

OBJECTIVES: The article aims to illustrate the history of social care as transition from religious motives and values in social care to non-religious secularism. THEORETICAL BASE: The consideration is based on several historical studies/pieces of historical research regarding the position of religious ideas in social care in Finland. METHODS: Child welfare, the settlement movement, prison and probation services, and the care of disabled people are examined in terms of the history of ideas. OUTCOMES: The analysis showed that Christian values have had a significant influence on Finnish social care in the past, but do not play any important role in modern, research-based professionalism. SOCIAL WORK IMPLICATIONS: The review helps to understand the development of social care as a professional activity as part of the overall modernization of society.

history of ideas of social care, professionalism, spiritual values, secularism

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