Challenges and Experiences
New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Donald Hislop and Christine Coupland
Chapter 5: Discourses of professional work
For some considerable time, since Hughes (1958), the academic study of professions has been concerned with definitional questions. Generally speaking when determining the difference between occupations and professions it is widely understood that they differ by degree rather than kind of activity (see Evetts, 2006). They both organize work practices and individuals, and both assume and communicate that they can legitimately determine what is good and appropriate for their members and thus determine appropriate ways of thinking about problems that fall within their domain (Dingwall and Lewis, 1983). There is a prevailing interest in how and by what practices members of professions and occupations control the work and workers who fall within their remit. One analytic perspective on this issue attends to how language and discourse construct the role, identities and domains of control of the professions. Written and spoken texts and non-verbal behaviours have been important in the historical creation of professional practices and they continue to reproduce and reconstruct the reshaping of these practices. Although the professions and their constitutive efforts are well established, interest in discourses of professional work is relatively recent but attracting growing attention from practitioners and academics alike. The term ‘professional discourses’ utilized in this chapter is taken to mean text and talk in professional contexts for professional purposes. It includes an exploration of empirical studies of talk of at least one professional either to other professionals or to other members of society.
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