Challenges and Prospects
New Horizons in Public Policy series
Edited by John Fenwick and Janice McMillan
Chapter 5: Professions and Professionalism
Andrew Massey INTRODUCTION However much successive governments around the world have acted upon the precepts of New Public Management (NPM) over the last 30 years, imposing its prescriptions and replacing professionals as office holders in the public sector with ‘generic managers’, the professions remain important in the functioning of government and governance. It may be argued that there is no single profession of management, but that there are professionals who become managers and within the public sector there are generic managers who are employed for most of their career within one field of expertise, such as health, education or social work. Adherents to NPM have sought to control professional power within the public sector through the managerializing of offices traditionally held by senior professionals and by arrogating to those managers decisions over resource allocation and strategic policy making, decisions traditionally taken by professionals. These developments in public sector management have been buttressed by an increasing stress on citizens as consumers of services; as clients rather than passive recipients. Furthermore, experience of this over many years has led to a realization that the public no longer want to simply put a naïve and touching faith in the proper behaviour and abilities of the professionals charged with (and paid for) delivering public and private services, they no longer simply wish to ‘trust’ them; they want assurances as to their competency. The ‘tick-box mentality’ and blame culture engendered by thirty years of Taylorist managerialism has contributed to the position of venerable professions...