RN19 - Sociology of Professions

RN coordinator:

Teresa Carvalho, University of Aveiro and CIPES, Aveiro, Portugal



1.Title: Professions in a global and unequal world - Breaking and bridging boundaries to create a new and more inclusive professionalism 

The global processes of social and cultural change imply relevant transformations in professionals and professional groups in society. Professional groups were identified by sociologists as an important source of inequalities in society. Larson (1977/2013) developed the concept of professional project to describe how professional groups define strategies of social closure which allow them to obtain more economic and social power. Johnson (1972) revealed the existence of power relations focusing on the control and domination of the producer over the costumer of services. Inequalities resulted from the relations of social distance between professionals and clients and the dependence of the latter, based on professionals’ expertise which is not shared? by the client. Nevertheless others suggest that professional groups can have an important role in society since professionalism can be interpreted as a third logic in society, different from bureaucracy or market – imposing a specific ethos on professionals who are expected to put public interests first (Freidson, 2001).

Some sociologists have suggested that the mistrust of expertise which characterized the late twentieth century has reduced the gap between ordinary citizens and professionals (Giddens, 1990, Beck, 1992). Yet what Beck calls the ‘internal definition-making power of medical practice’ means that the medical profession, unlike other professions can subvert criticism from external sources by the creation of new social facts.

Furthermore, in the last decades due to changes promoted by globalization, the development of new technologies, managerialism and even the way knowledge is produced and disseminated important challenges are occurring in professional groups. Changes imposed by a global economy seem to be decreasing professionals traditional working conditions and social and economic prestigious. Are professions still a relevant element in societies’ stratification?

At the same time we are witnessing an increasing movement of professionals from countries stimulating migration processes that previously were mainly concentrated in non-qualified workers. Simultaneously managerialism is said to promote and create a new professionalism (Evetts, 2003, 2006; Freidson, 2001; Svensson, 2006; Whitty, 2001). Are these transformations promoting changes in professional ethos? Are they serving their organisations’ interests more than they are serving the interests of the public?

The new ways knowledge is produced and disseminated allows a great number of people to have access to it. Are we still in face of unequal power relations between the public and professionals based on knowledge expertise? How are the boundaries between public and professionals changing?

The RN19 sessions address these issues and seek to further  debates into the possibility of using sociological imagination and analysing the breaking and bridging of professional boundaries to better understand and overcome social inequalities and differences.

We welcome conceptual and empirical papers that address the conference theme concerning professionalism and professional groups either in a single country or occupation or in a comparative perspective and we especially encourage submissions from PhD students.


2. Joint session with RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

Joint session title: Citizens and professionals: unequal and diversified healthcare societies.

This is a proposal to bring together RN (16) (Sociology of Health and Illness) and RN (19) (Sociology of professions) to jointly provide a session on the issue of “Patients, citizens and professionals: unequal health care societies”.

Inequalities in health and in healthcare are increasing in contemporary Europe. The gap between socio-economic groups is widening. In a context of rising healthcare costs generally and more specifically the global financial and economic crisis, Nation-states throughout Europe have responded by attempting to cut healthcare spending and to devolve responsibility for health from the state on to citizens. In our European socio-culturally diversified societies, the first populations targeted by these cutting politics seem to be deprived migrants and in a more indirect way, poor ethnic minorities. This raises questions about the way in which stakeholders such as citizens and professionals are responding.

The aim of this joint session is to understand how difference and inequalities are influencing professions and professionals in healthcare and the ways in which this relates to the interest of ill-persons and citizens. This session seeks also to discuss to what extent citizens and ill-persons can enter into alliances (with or without professionals) to defend ‘the public good’ and the principle to equal healthcare for all in the context of economic recession and political crisis.

We invite empirical and theoretical papers addressing the following issues and other related topics:

• Differences and similarities in the responses of Nation-states to inequalities in health and healthcare

•  Professional identity in the context of international financial crisis and the implications for citizens and ill-persons

•  Potential reconfigurations in health professionals professionalism due to changes in the health system and organisations

•  Experiences of national, regional and local policies and initiatives for the defence of the res publica and equal healthcare for all

•  Responsibility, reasonable spending, empowerment… new morality discourses in the air of our squeezed health care systems?

•  On the colored frontiers within European health systems

Notes for authors

Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to the general session or any specific session. Please submit only to one session. After abstract evaluation, coordinators will have the chance to transfer papers between sessions where applicable.

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers.

Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the Research Network; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Abstract submission deadline (extended):                                                                                                15th February 2015

Abstract submission platform:                                                                                          www.esa12thconference.eu

If you have further questions on the conference, please visit the conference website. For further information on the Research Network, please visit www.europeansociology.org.