In industrialized societies, professionals have long been valued and set apart from other workers because of their specialized knowledge and skill. But has their role in these societies declined? Of what significance are they today?
In this concise synthesis of the major debates about the professions since World War II, Eliot Freidson explores several broad questions about professionalism today—what it is, what its future is likely to be, and its value to public policy. Freidson argues that because professionalism is based on specialized knowledge, it is distinct from either bureaucratic or market-based forms of work. He predicts a rebirth of the professions during which practitioners lose some of their independence and become more accountable to standards of a professional elite. And, defending professionalism as a desirable method of providing complex, discretionary services to the public, Freidson argues that market-based or bureaucratic methods would impoverish the quality of service to consumers, and suggests ways the virtues of professionalism can be reinforced.
The most accessible survey available of almost fifty years of theory and research by the scholar whose own work helped define the field, this book will appeal to the growing international body of scholars concerned with studying and theorizing about the professions.
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In this book, Eliot Freidson explores several broad questions about professionalism in Western industrial societies today; how to theorize about it, what its future is likely to be, and its value to public policy. In analysing these problems, Freidson develops an original and compelling interpretation of the professions and the role of the professional. Professionalism is understood to be based on the occupational control of work. As such, he shows, it is quite distinct from either bureaucratic or market-based forms of structuring work.
Freidson also discusses various predictions about the future of the professions, pointing out that virtually all of them have mistaken practitioners for the profession as a whole and ignored members who generate new knowledge, set and implement policy, and communicate with the public through the media. He predicts a reorganization of the professions in which practitioners lose some of their independence and become accountable to standards established and administered by a professional elite.
In contemplating the political, economic, and ideological forces that exert enormous pressure on the professions today, Freidson departs from most writers by defending professionalism as a desirable method of providing complex, discretionary services to the public. He holds that market-based or bureaucratic methods would impoverish the quality of service to consumers and suggests how the virtues of professionalism can be reinforced. This book will appeal to the growing international body of historians, political scientists, sociologists, and policy analysts who are concerned with studying and theorizing about the professions.About the Author:
Eliot Freidson is Presidential Scholar at the University of California-San Francisco. He is the author of Professional Powers: A Study of the Institutionalization of Formal Knowledge; Doctoring Together: A Study of Professional Social Control; and Profession of Medicine: A Study of the Sociology of Applied Knowledge, all published by the University of Chicago Press.
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