Table of Contents

Perspectives on Contemporary Professional Work

Perspectives on Contemporary Professional Work

Challenges and Experiences

New Horizons in Management series

Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Donald Hislop and Christine Coupland

How is the world of professions and professional work changing? This book offers both an overview of current debates surrounding the nature of professional work, and the implications for change brought about by the managerialist agenda. The relationships professionals have with their organizations are variable, indeterminate and uncertain, and there is still debate over the ways in which these should be characterized and theorized. The contributors discuss these implications with topics including hybrid organizations and hybrid professionalism; the changing nature of professional and managerial work; profession and identity; and the emergence of HRM as a new managerial profession.

Chapter 9: The ambiguities of ‘managed professionalism’: working in and with IT

Bob Russell, Clive Trusson and Sangita De

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour


We begin this chapter by reflecting upon a simple distinction. The notion of ‘profession’ may be used as a noun and/or as an adjective. In the former case, specific occupations are referred to as professions by virtue of the control they exercise over the performance of particular tasks, including the designation of who may legally undertake such work. Such occupational control (Johnson, 1972) may be direct, as when states pass laws or grant charters permitting occupational associations to determine the rules and regulations for undertaking professional practice or when states directly employ professionals to undertake these decisions on their behalf (Macdonald, 1995). Different researchers have explored (and emphasized) different aspects of what control entails. That is, how much control over what types of resources is required for an occupation to be considered and classified as a profession? For some, control pre-eminently involves an exclusive, socially recognized claim to serve a particular market (Larson, 1977; Macdonald, 1995; Wilensky, 1964). In other words, professionalization is a form of social closure (Weber, 1978: 341 and passim), through which strict control of a labour market is exercised. In this case, a profession is a licence to practise while professionalization creates monopolies of service provision. Thus, market closure constitutes a significant part of what Larson (1977) refers to as the ‘professional project’, that is, the seeking out of social recognition and legitimation as a profession.

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