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.show more