Meeting youth in movement and on neutral ground

Morten Nissen


The article articulates an educational motto – expressed in the title – found in a ‘prototypical narrative’ of social youth work carried out by activists in Copenhagen in the 1990s. This way of modeling pedagogical practice is first outlined as different from the standardizing approach dominant in science. As a prototypical narrative, the story alternates between descriptions and contextualizations of events, theoretical debate, and analytical suggestions. The key idea that is unfolded is the ‘critical trans-pedagogy’ of a creation and tinkering of collectives and their participants in struggles for recognition, and for the democratic social engineering of a responsive welfare state. It is suggested that a singular historical situation spurred this development, both in the practical youth work, and in the theoretical traditions with which I could articulate it. This included the post-industrial crisis of labor, the post-cold-war shaking of state forms, New Public Management, and the simultaneous expansion and attack on the welfare state. It also included how the Foucauldian rethinking of power and the performative turn in the social sciences informed the broadly Vygotskian traditions. On these backgrounds, the youth work practices could be approached as generalizing, performative reenactments of social problems. The approach is finally spelled out in and around the story of one participant, before the concluding remarks return to the issue of how a prototypical narrative deals with theory.


youth, standard, collective

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