Soc 2169 Final Textbook Notes.docx

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12 Apr 2012

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Sociology 2169 Textbook Notes
Exam #4 (Final)
Chapter 14: Professional Work (Page 253-268)
Brief History
Professional work gained momentum in Canada in the 19th century as a result of industrial
capitalism, urbanization, improved transportation and the development of a money economy
Before confederation following professions were considered the “elite” (educated white men):
- Doctors
- Lawyers
- Clergymen
Post confederation: governments passed legislation which regulated work of professionals and
granted them virtual monopoly over practice in a given field. Professionals saw this as being
granted prestige.
What is a Profession?
Profession: “a particular form of occupation, distinguished by its organization (the formation of
professional societies that work in the occupation’s interest), social status (prestige), and
educational requirements (e.g. LLB credentials for a lawyer). Are organized into regulatory
organizations etc. There are various definitions of profession in sociology.
What sets them apart from other occupations?
Existence of associations, advanced training, esoteric knowledge (not easily understood by
general population), service orientation, code of ethics.
Long-standing status as professions (withstood tests of time)
Guided by a commitment to serving others
Flaw: generally reflect the image that professional group want to display to the world. Social
influence and authority often overlooked.
Key question: What quantity of each characteristic is required to be considered a profession?
E.g. How much education is required? From this we realize that other factors are also important:
A common characteristic in definitions of a profession is power
Professions= occupations with great social influence
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E.g. the work of a doctor can have life or death consequences, determine whether someone is
admitted to a hospital or incarcerated, determine safety in society
Friedson/Johnson: professions are best defined not according to a set of characteristics, but
through the ability of practitioners to control their occupation/work/labour of those who work
with them
Foucault: professional knowledge and expertise are both a source and product of power in
modern society
Common thought: professions have both social privileges and a cultural influence that grants
them power over individuals and society
Code of ethics: ensure power is not abused
Limits of power-related definitions: how much power does an occupation need to be considered
a profession? Need to acknowledge that recent social changes reduce power exercised by
individual professionals
This decline is power does not necessarily mean an end to professional status as it is not the
only important characteristic
Government Recognition
Professions are occupations regulated by government legislation (rights, responsibilities and
Possess social esteem: people in society hold them in high regard and governments have
recognized their possession of expertise via legislation
Requirements are established so that only suitable/knowledgeable people could perform this
type of work (barrier to others)
Definitions based on legislation are important because they define which groups have special
A “Folk Concept”
Friedson: we should treat the definition of profession as one that is historically change, “a folk
Not viewing it in an absolute sense
Useful to explore the definition in a socio-historical context , how people determine who is a
professional/ not a professional and how they make professions by their activities
Varies between societies
Cannot be generalized between countries
Flaw: no concrete measure of a profession
Shows when and why professions seek to obtain legislation and what makes them successful in
gaining it
Overall: the folk concept reveals that profession is not a fixed concept/it changes/it varies
socially, geographically and historically. Typically they hold characteristics of high income, social
esteem, privilege in society, education, skill and organization
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How Occupations Become Professions
Professionalization: process through which an occupation acquires the characteristics and status
of a profession
Several processes, not just one
Social closure: concept (Weber) that holds that occupational groups achieve professional status
by closing off access to opportunities, knowledge, education etc by drawing on status criteria
Restricted membership
Mechanisms of social closure: establishing schools, formal training, credentials
Educational credentials= primary mechanisms
Historical mechanisms: e.g. entry into professions formally restricted to white men
Limited access via high standards and large fees (not everyone can afford a university education)
First professions in Canada-> law and medicine
Self Regulation: ability to govern themselves by passing bylaws to establish entrance,
examination, education requirements and set standards for conduct re: professional practice
Social Trends
Social trends aided professionals’ efforts to extend their influence
19th/20th centuries: respect for science grew, and the belief that science could uncover essential
truths about our world
Support from elite groups helped those hoping to obtain professional status
Professionalization helped limit membership to people with status by virtue of gender, race and
Occupational Profile and Job Characteristics
Traditional view of a profession: conferring autonomy and decision-making authority
Determine nature of situation and construct a course of action
High amount of influence over what they do and how they provide their services
Professionals: 14% of labour force
Womens professions tend to be subordinate to mens (e.g. doctor nurse)
Men predominate in professional jobs
Unemployment rates are low
Significance of gender is decreasing
Negatives: professionals often face long work hours, high responsibility, susceptible to stress
and fatigue (mental and physical health jeopardized)
Gender and Professions
Historically: gender was a key part of professional development (limited access for women)
Early efforts: exclude women (e.g. women prevented from entering medicine until 1870s)
Professional employment traditionally structure by white men to meet their needs
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