Most downloaded

Defining a Profession: The Role of Knowledge and Expertise

Mike Saks

The paper highlights the importance of resurrecting the debate about how to define a profession. The drive to define a profession is traced back to the taxonomic approach – encompassing the work of trait and functionalist writers – in which professions were seen as possessing unique and positive characteristics, including distinctive knowledge and expertise. A range of critical challenges to this approach are then considered, particularly as they relate to the role of knowledge and expertise in defining a profession, covering interactionism, Marxism, Foucauldianism and discourse analysis. However, the most effective challenge to the taxonomic approach is considered to be the neo-Weberian perspective based on a less broadly assumptive and more analytically useful definition of a profession centered on exclusionary closure. With reference to case studies, the relative merits of neo-Weberianism compared to taxonomic and other approaches are examined in relation to the role of knowledge and expertise and delineating professional boundaries. 


Organizational Sense: A Notion for Studying Emerging Organizational Professionalism at Work

Gérald Gaglio

This article examines organizational professionalism at work and in action. I focus on how organizational professionalism emerges in the workplace and what kinds of situated skills are involved. Organizational professionalism is explored in three dimensions (activity, politics, and ethics), from which the notion of organizational sense is developed. Organizational sense has three accepted meanings. The first accepted meaning relates to everydayness and ecologies of action. It has collective, material, and informational dimensions, and is distributed between people and objects. The second accepted meaning concerns the political dimension of performing a professional activity and its sensitivity (attentiveness, discernment, etc.). The third accepted meaning concerns ethics and examines loyalty toward an organization. The notion of organizational sense is illustrated by means of fieldwork with a population of internal communicators working in seven major French organizations. 

How important is Autonomy to Professional Workers?

Arne Mastekaasa

A common assumption is that autonomy is crucial to professional workers. I examine this using survey data on a sample of public sector welfare professionals, viz. medical doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers. Comparisons are made with general population data from the International Social Survey Programme. Two methods of assessing the importance of work autonomy are employed; respondents’ direct ratings and statistical associations between work autonomy (and other job characteristics) on the one hand and job satisfaction and organizational commitment on the other. Findings: Autonomy is not rated as more important among the professionals than in the general population, and neither is it more strongly related to job satisfaction. Interesting work and workplace social support appear to be more central. 

Most downloaded articles in 2019

Interprofessional Education: Students' Learning of Joint Patient Care

Anita Carin Gudmundsen, Bente Norbye, Madeleine Abrandt Dahlgren, Aud Obstfelder

This study examines how patient care is developed in meetings between students of occupational therapy, physiotherapy, nursing and medicine who are allowed to shape their own interprofessional collaboration. We conduct a thematic interpretative analysis of audio recordings and observations from the meetings and informal talks with the students. The analysis draws on traditions in sociocultural learning theory that deal with interaction on something in common between actors with different knowledge bases and the consequences of this interaction. The analysis showed that the students developed collaboration in patient care by sharing, assessing and determining professional knowledge of patients’ health conditions collectively. In conclusion, we argue that the students learned to use a multiprofessional knowledge base in the design of patient treatment when they were given responsibility to create the collaboration themselves. This demonstrates that students can be encouraged to independently develop professional collaboration in patient care within interprofessional education.

Sociologists have paid little attention to the shifting significance of gender to professional work. Nevertheless, there is evidence that the meanings attached to gender, and the gendering of work, have shifted over time, such that the experiences of newer cohorts of professionals differ from those of professionals in previous generations. In this paper, we show how combining intersectionality theory and life course approaches facilitates the exploration of inequalities by gender, class, and race/ethnicity across generations and age cohorts. We present empirical research findings to demonstrate how this approach illuminates the convergence of gender and age in the professions to confer privilege and produce disadvantage in professional workplaces. Subsequently, we introduce the concept of meta-work—hidden, invisible and laborious work performed by non-traditional and disadvantaged professionals—through which they endeavor to cope with structural inequalities embedded in the professions. As professions and professional workplaces are still designed primarily for middle-class, dominant-ethnicity men, professionals who do not fit these categories need to invest extra time and energy to develop individual strategies and tactics to cope with professional pressures in and around their work. Meta-work is intrinsically linked to the traditional and normative ideals surrounding professional roles and identities, and therefore is intimately connected with professionals’ sense of self and their feeling of belonging to professional communities. Meta-work, and the tactics and strategies that result from it, are important coping mechanisms for some professionals, enabling them to deal with rapidly changing work realities and a lack of collegial support. Finally, we highlight several areas for future research on the intersections of gender and age in the professions.

The Professional Work of Hinge Objects: Inter-Professional Coordination in Urban Drainage

Marie Leth Meilvang

Recent developments in sustainable urban drainage have turned the area, formerly controlled by engineers, into a professional field encompassing engineers, landscape architects, and urban planners. Through interviews, fieldwork, and document analysis of three Danish cases of urban rainwater management, the article shows how these three different professions, in drawing upon the specific Danish concept of LAR (Local Diversion of Rainwater), compete with each other but also coordinate their work tasks. The article proposes the concept of hinge object, inspired by Star and Griesemer’s boundary object and Abbott’s work on hinges, to capture how LAR serves as a coordinating object among professions, but also among professions, the state, and universities.


Updated in March 2017