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English summary

Koinonia. Interdisciplinary Research Group on Social Work, History, Law and Social Intervention

In the complex context of contemporary societies, research in the field of Social Work and Social Sciences requires an interdisplinary approach including, along with the specific contributions of Social Work and Social Services, other reflections from the point of view of the Humanities, Law or Health Sciences.

Thus, a group of researchers from the fields of social work, sociology, law, history and psychology, have decided to organize themselves as an interdisciplinary research group under the name of Koinonia. Interdisciplinary research group on Social Work, History, Law and Social Intervention.

Introduction: koinonia, between community and civil society

Koinonia is the Greek term that has inspired the formation of this research, recalling a conceptual debate on the political community, the civil society and its cohesion and internal relations. Indeed, Koinonia is the Greek word for "society", the human community and mutual support among a group of people. As such it is a concept of great importance in the history of thought and social sciences. The emergence of the state in classical Greec, is based on a triple sense of the polis: the physical, constitutional and communitarian. In the latter sense, koinonia implied, at the origin of the democratic state, the supportive community of men and women born or living in the polis. Hence the deep significance of the term historical and political origins in the social sciences and in political philosophy. In Plato's thought koinonia means not only a human community that is a prerequisite of friendship (Gorgias 507e), education or philosophy (Laws 861e, Symp.188c), but also "society" as a whole (Statesman 276b). Aristotle developed this concept as encompassing both the civic and the political community (Politics 1252a7). Besides the philosophical sense, other meanings of this Greek term refer to Greek law (marriage or community property), and in later period and far from its original meaning, to Christian theology.

Our research group is based on the reference to aristotelian koinonia politike, whose rough translation would be "community", "association", "political society" or "civil society". This idea will pass to the Roman world in the work of thinkers like Cicero. In Latin, communitas and societas were proposed as a translation of this concept of Greek political philosophy in a duality that has lasted in modern languages (community and society, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, etc.). The modern debate around the notion of koinonia in philosophers like Carl Schmitt. Gadamer, Jean-Luc Nancy and Roberto Esposito reflects the complex background of this dichotomy (community and society). The current discussion about the political community and civil society therefore stemms from the Platonic-Aristotelian term koinonia and its Latin equivalents. From the perspective of researchers in the field of Social Work and Social Services, and also from the point of view of other related disciplines, democratic citizenship, the relationship between civil society and the welfare, and new forms of social intervention in the community, represent a key area demanding further research from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Due to its relevance as a symbol of the human community from ancient to modern philosophy and of  key issues in Social work such as solidarity and identity, the term koinonia has been chosen to give name to this interdisciplinary research team in social work, social sciences, humanities, law, and health sciences, in order to address various social problems and phenomena of partnership and community at present, and their implications from the joint perspectives of each area.

Research areas

The research group Koinonia has three key areas of joint work. 

Research on social problems in diverse populations, analyzing both the issues related to Social Work and Social Services and their legal and psychosocial implications.

Analysis of the phenomenon of social aid, altruism, partnership and corporations or philanthropic societies throughout history.

Study of the impact of new technologies upon Social Work and Social Services.

About Koinonia Research Group

Koinonia Research group is based at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), the largest Spanish Public University, and includes relevant researchers from various international universities: among others, Complutense University, the University of Murcia, the University of California (Berkeley, USA), Wuhan University (China), Zhejiang University (China), the University of Alicante, the University of Huelva, the Public University of Navarre, the University of Valladolid, the University of Jaen, the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas (Mexico), Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (Mexico) and the University of Potsdam (Germany). The aim of this group is to encourage the establishment of networks with other research groups, as well as cooperation in the design, application and development of international projects.

Koinonia. Interdisciplinary research group on Social Work, History, Law and Social Intervention (Ref GI62) has been officially recognized as a research group at UNED by agreement of the Governing Council of May 9, 2012. Its principal investigator is Prof. Dr. Antonio López Peláez, Professor of Social Work and Social Services at UNED.


Koinonia. Interdisciplinary research group
Department of Social Work - Office 0.34
Faculty of Law
C / Obispo Trejo, 2
28040 Madrid (Spain)
Tel: (+34) 91 398 85 82      
Fax: (+34) 91 398 95 51
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