The System of Professions: An Essay on the Divison of Expert Labor

Administrative Science Quarterly (Impact Factor: 4.21). 06/1990; DOI: 10.2307/2393403

ABSTRACT In "The System of Professions" Andrew Abbott explores central questions about the role of professions in modern life: Why should there be occupational groups controlling expert knowledge? Where and why did groups such as law and medicine achieve their power? Will professionalism spread throughout the occupational world? While most inquires in this field study one profession at a time, Abbott here considers the system of professions as a whole. Through comparative and historical study of the professions in nineteenth- and twentieth-century England, France, and America, Abbott builds a general theory of how and why professions evolve.

Abbott begins by evaluating the link—which he calls jurisdiction—between an occupation and its work. The concept of jurisdiction leads directly to an analysis of professions as existing in a system; since one profession can preempt another's work, the histories of professions are inevitably interdependent. Abbott goes on to discuss both internal and external cultural and social forces bearing on this system and closes by illustrating his approach with three detailed histories of contested jurisdictions, in the areas of information, law, and psychotherapy.

Underlying Abbott's theoretical synthesis is an explanation of how a division of labor—in this case a division of expert labor—constructs itself in modern society. In addressing this question, he also offers a powerful analysis of contingency that bridges the gap between analytic sociology and narrative history. Written with grace and clarity, this highly original treatise will be required reading for those interested in the history and sociology of the professions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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    • "Professionalization does not occur in a vacuum. Abbott (1988) points to the relevance of competition between professional groups. The currency of competition between professions is the claim over a jurisdiction – i.e. the tasks that need to be fulfilled. "
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    ABSTRACT: Autonomy repeatedly triggers reregulation. Reregulation has two dimensions: the layering of different control mechanisms and the growth of the rules within those layers. Using a case study of social housing in Belgium, we explain the tendency to reregulate once autonomy is provided. We attribute the layering of rules to a conflict regarding oversight between the established legal profession and an ascending management profession. Crozier's vicious circle of bureaucratization helps to explain the growth of regulation within layers. The legal culture of the Rechtsstaat is a catalyst for both professional competition and bureaucratization.
    Public Administration 10/2015; DOI:10.1111/padm.12181 · 1.57 Impact Factor
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    • "Evetts 2011 ) , and not in response to a need expressed by other occupational groups in the school system , the suggestion that special educators have difficulties claiming full jurisdictional control is even more substantiated . Returning to Abbott ( 1988 ) , once again , the difficulties for special educators to gain jurisdictional control might be related to obstacles to ' public ' recognition ( where ' pub - lic ' includes politicians and the media ) of the effects of the work the professionals per - form . The results indicate that special educators have been unsuccessful in fully organising their practical work in coherence with their knowledge and values or consis - tent with how they define and explain school difficulties . "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: There are two occupational groups in Sweden that are expected to have significant impact on educational work related to children in need of special support. These two groups are special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) and special education teachers. In this paper, we use the collective name ‘special educators’ to refer to both groups. Special educators are expected to have specific knowledge regarding the identification of, and work with, school difficulties. However, there is noticeably little research concerning these occupational groups. This study was undertaken in order to further our knowledge about special educators’ work.Purpose: The overall purpose of the present paper is to provide a first overview of special educators’ work. The paper investigates these special educators’ perceptions of their occupational role, of their preparedness for the role and of how their role is practised. The paper also illuminates questions about SENCOs’ and special education teachers’ knowledge and values as well as the grounds for the occupational groups to claim special expertise related to the identification of, and work with, school difficulties.Design and method: A questionnaire was sent out in 2012 to all SENCOs and special education teachers in Sweden who received their degree from 2001 onwards and in accordance with the Swedish examination acts of 2001, 2007 and 2008 (N = 4252, 75% response rate).Results: According to the results, special educators state that they are well prepared to work with some tasks, such as counselling, leading development work and teaching children/pupils individually or in groups. Concurrently, there are tasks that the groups are educated for (e.g. school-development work), which they seldom practise in their daily work.Conclusions: Primarily using reasoning concerning jurisdictional control, we discuss SENCOs’ and special education teachers’ authority to claim special expertise in relation to certain kinds of work, clients and knowledge and thus, their chances of gaining full jurisdictional control in the field of special education.
    Educational Research 07/2015; 57(3). DOI:10.1080/00131881.2015.1056642 · 0.48 Impact Factor
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    • "Bourdieu's concept of symbolic capital provides an ideal analytic tool for understanding and explaining the dispute between two professions over the use of a specific professional title, notably " podiatric surgeon. " Whilst Weberian explanations provide insight into inter-professional competition and jurisdictional disputes over task and role boundaries (Abbott, 1988; Larkin, 1983; Macdonald, 1995; Saks, 2013; Turner, 1995) it is Bourdieu's insights that most clearly express the importance of title and the right of naming (Bourdieu, 1989). Bourdieu separates title from task, and teases out the importance of the former in determining the latter. "
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    ABSTRACT: Interprofessional conflict has largely been understood in terms of jurisdictional disputes centred on contested task domains and role boundaries, with less attention paid to the symbolic value associated with specific professional titles. Bourdieu’s concepts of symbolic power and capital help to shed light on the opposition of the medical profession in the UK to the adoption of the title “podiatric surgeon” by non-medically qualified podiatrists undertaking foot surgery. Focusing on the medical discourse evident in press and media coverage of the dispute over a 12-year period gives insights into the use of strategies of symbolic violence aimed at retaining control over the exclusive use of prestigious forms of professional title. Titles, as symbolic capital, are understood as central to professions’ struggle for legitimacy and recognition.
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