profession


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profession

a. a declaration of faith in a religion, esp as made on entering the Church of that religion or an order belonging to it
b. the faith or the religion that is the subject of such a declaration

profession

any MIDDLE-CLASS occupational group, characterized by claims to a high level of technical and intellectual expertise, autonomy in recruitment and discipline, and a commitment to public service. The ‘traditional’ professions are Law, Medicine, the Church and the Armed Forces, but both the term and its application are still debated. Among the reasons for this are the rise of new areas of technical knowledge and specialization and the everyday use of the term to refer to any and all occupations, or to distinguish between individuals who have exactly the same expertise by some nontechnical standard (e.g. money, social class). In the sociological literature, the debates have tended to concern problems of definition and the most significant features of professions.

Until the 1970s, there was a tendency in sociological work to discuss professions in their own terms and thus to reflect a functionalist ideology of expert public service as the main criterion for professional status. An early contribution (Flexner, 1915) exemplifies this. Flexner emphasized the intellectual, non-manual character of professions which necessitated long, specialist training in knowledge and techniques, their strong internal organization to deal with communication and discipline and their practical orientation, which was seen as altruistic – motivated by public service rather than personal profit. Most sociological work until recently echoed these themes, emphasizing the high status which followed from these characteristics. Later functionalists continued to debate the nature of professions, emphasizing different elements but broadly agreeing on the essential points. Talcott PARSONS (1964a) took the argument further. He started with the familiar features of esoteric knowledge and altruism but added that by virtue of expertise and knowledge, the professional has authority over the lay person and that the characteristics of professionalism were a distinct and increasingly important feature of modern institutions. The implication that professionalization was occurring on an important scale has been a theme in much of the work on professions but has not always been developed in the same terms as Parsons or other functionalists. Whereas functionalists tended to emphasize the value to society, the high prestige and selflessness of professions, other approaches have emphasized power and self-interest. One might say that where the view from the professions emphasized the advantages of professionalism to the community, later critical approaches stressed the advantages to the professionals themselves. One of the earliest of these analyses was by Hughes (1952) who argued that professions did not simply operate to the benefit of clients, their organization and practices also protected and benefited the practitioners. In particular, the claim to authoritative knowledge means that only the professionals can judge whether work has been done properly and the professional organization can serve to defend the practitioner rather than the client. This critical view has been typical of more recent approaches. Johnson (1972), developed the argument on the relationship between client and practitioner. emphasizing the power which professionals have to define the needs and treatment of their clients and to resolve any disputes in their own favour. Parry and Parry (1976) studied the medical profession

and argued that the ‘producer-consumer’ relationship is a less important consideration than the wish to establish a monopoly of practice – to get rid of rival medical approaches. The claim to unique competence, legally supported, is the basic strategy of professionalization. Self-regulation and control of recruitment are essential parts of the process. The advantages of professional (monopoly) status are to guarantee high material rewards, exclude outside judgement of performance and give guaranteed security of tenure to those allowed to practise.

This argument sees professionalization as a self-interested strategy and, in that sense, breaks down many of the distinctions which were formerly made between middle-class and working-class occupations. Skilled manual workers, for example, also have attempted to control recruitment by apprenticeships and to protect members’ security by trade unionism and ‘restrictive’ job-definitions whereby permissibility to do particular jobs was strictly limited to a craft member. Manual workers, due to factors such as technological change and market situation in periods of high unemployment, have been less successful than professions in maintaining their monopoly privileges, but there are signs that the traditional professions are under pressure in their claims to monopoly and autonomy. The increasing popularity and success of alternative medicine, for example, and proposed changes in the legal profession, including the weakening of solicitors’ effective monopoly on conveyancing and barristers’ monopoly on higher court representation, are cases in point. These changes, though, have not diminished the popularity of professionalization as a strategy of SOCIAL MOBILITY, because material and prestige rewards are still apparent.

References in classic literature ?
His eloquence and religious fervour had already given the earnest of high eminence in his profession.
By the time I was your age, Tom, I had chosen a profession, and was soon competent to enter upon it.
But Jake Dunlap said it warn't unusual in the profession.
The effect of a religious profession on the conduct of southern masters is vividly described in the fol- lowing Narrative, and shown to be any thing but salutary.
John Knightley was a tall, gentlemanlike, and very clever man; rising in his profession, domestic, and respectable in his private character; but with reserved manners which prevented his being generally pleasing; and capable of being sometimes out of humour.
Grace has, on the whole, proved a good keeper; though, owing partly to a fault of her own, of which it appears nothing can cure her, and which is incident to her harassing profession, her vigilance has been more than once lulled and baffled.
In some other pursuit, for which he was more fit, and in which he could feel an interest, he would no doubt display the industry and perseverance which he had been too much discouraged to practice in the profession that he had now abandoned.
I laughed, and replied that I saw no suitable profession in the whole prospect; which was perhaps to be attributed to its flatness.
In the morning of life they are rapt by intoxicating visions of some great haberdashery business, beckoned to by the voluptuous enticements of the legal profession, or maybe the Holy Grail they forswear all else to seek is a snug editorial chair.
When I attended the King in order to deliver the presents, after I had excused the smallness of them, as being, though unworthy his acceptance, the largest that our profession of poverty, and distance from our country, allowed us to make, he examined them one by one with a dissatisfied look, and told me that however he might be pleased with our good attentions, he thought our present such as could not be offered to a king without affronting him; and made me a sign with his hand to withdraw, and take back what I had brought.
My father had three, all sons, and all of sufficient age to make choice of a profession.
Will not the man of the learned profession, who will feel a neutrality to the rivalships between the different branches of industry, be likely to prove an impartial arbiter between them, ready to promote either, so far as it shall appear to him conducive to the general interests of the society?