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Edited by Markus Reihlen and Andreas Werr
Chapter 17: After the gold rush: the role of professionals in the emergence and configuration of organizational fields
Institutional theory acknowledges the intimate relationship between professionals and profound social change (Hwang & Powell, 2005). Most research, however, has focused on understanding how professionals transform themselves, that is, create new forms of professional organizations (Suddaby & Greenwood, 2005), create new areas of practice (Anand, Gardner, & Morris, 2007), or expand their professional jurisdiction (Greenwood & Suddaby, 2006). A key observation of this research is that, when professionals transform themselves, they tend to produce, as a consequence, a reconfiguration of the organizational fields in which they are embedded. While interesting, this focus on how professionals change their own institutions or reconfigure fields tends to treat field-level change as the somewhat accidental byproduct of more deliberate changes in the professions. It overlooks the possibility that field-level change occurs in tandem with and as a deliberate result of efforts to change professions. Similarly, such research has focused on change in established fields and professions rather than attending to the process by which nascent professions and fields are originally established (see also Chapter 16). Suddaby and Viale (2011) argue that field-level organizational change should be reconceptualized as a process composed of an ecology of multiple, often overlapping "projects" of both professionalism and institutionalization. The "professional project" is a well-established and powerful conceptual explanation for understanding both the motivations and the processes of professionalization (Larson, 1977). Professional projects are also projects of institutionalization in which professions exchange resources and commitments with other institutional actors, such as the nation state, in order to establish and maintain positions of hegemony and power (Johnson, 1973; Larson, 1977; Macdonald, 1995).
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