’Social Skills’: Following a Travelling Concept from American Academic Discourse to Contemporary Danish Welfare Institutions

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Resumé

The article traces the origin and development of the concept of social
skills in first and foremost American academic discourse. As soon as the concept of social skills was coined, the concern for people lacking such skills started and has been on the increase ever since (now sharing public attention with related concepts such as self-control, emotional intelligence and empathy). After the analysis of the academic history of the concept follows an examination of the implementation of a range of assessment instruments and training programmes related to social skills (and lack hereof) in contemporary Danish welfare institutions (more specifically, day nurseries and schools, employment and penal services). The analysis forwarded in the article thus demonstrates how an intellectual idea may develop and travel - and on its journey connect to pre-existing cultural logics and societal concerns. The idea of social skills has through its development been made uncontroversial – everybody wants to be skilful. The concept does, however, convey an individualistic view on social life and imposes a reflexivity over own performance on the participants. Further, its normative character contributes to a problematization of those who are perceived to lack these skills.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftMinerva
Vol/bind54
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)423-443
Antal sider20
ISSN0026-4695
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2016

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welfare
discourse
day nursery
emotional intelligence
lack
self-control
reflexivity
empathy
training program
travel
examination
history
school
performance

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abstract = "The article traces the origin and development of the concept of socialskills in first and foremost American academic discourse. As soon as the concept of social skills was coined, the concern for people lacking such skills started and has been on the increase ever since (now sharing public attention with related concepts such as self-control, emotional intelligence and empathy). After the analysis of the academic history of the concept follows an examination of the implementation of a range of assessment instruments and training programmes related to social skills (and lack hereof) in contemporary Danish welfare institutions (more specifically, day nurseries and schools, employment and penal services). The analysis forwarded in the article thus demonstrates how an intellectual idea may develop and travel - and on its journey connect to pre-existing cultural logics and societal concerns. The idea of social skills has through its development been made uncontroversial – everybody wants to be skilful. The concept does, however, convey an individualistic view on social life and imposes a reflexivity over own performance on the participants. Further, its normative character contributes to a problematization of those who are perceived to lack these skills.",
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