Critique Of Andrew Abbott

.. y are to do it (Abbott 1988: 184).

The emergence of new forms of jurisdictional legitimacy has been warranted by cultural shifts such as secularization, and changing cultural values. This has led to a shift in professional legitimation from a reliance on social origins and character values to a reliance on scientization or rationalization of technique and on efficiency of service (Abbott 1988: 179). The ascent of the modern university has been a great external force behind the development of professions. Universities have served as legitimators of professional knowledge and expertise.They have helped to generate new techniques of practice, and have been the training ground for professionals. Finally, universities have also become another arena for interprofessional competition (Abbott 1988: 196). Section III: Three Case Studies In his discussion of information professionals Abbott states that there are two types. There are those who reside in qualitative information, such as librarians, academics, advertisers, and journalists, and those who abide in quantitative information, such as cost accountants, management engineers, statisticians, operations researchers, and systems analysts.

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The move by qualitative professions into technical organization has been attributed to the concept of scientific management. Qualitative information work has been shaped decisively by organizational and demographic developments..[as well as by] major technological events (Abbott 1988: 219).

The area of quantitative information has developed through the advent of two detrimental disturbances. One being the invention of mechanical devices for calculation and tabulation, which helped to rountinize the work, and the other being the birth of cost accounting, which helped professions to become more competitive (Abbott 1988: 228). The 1930’s were the beginning of the unification between qualitative and quantitative information.

This brought about the emergence of two practical claimants of this new area of information jurisdiction. The first was information science (IS) which took a purely theoretical perspective on the topic, and the second was management information systems (MIS), which had a more practical orientation.The initial structural development of the English legal profession began in the early 19th century, while the onset of that of the Americans came at a much later time. Two organizational structures attributed to the growth in demand for legal services in the 19th century. One was large commercial enterprise, the other was administrative bureaucracy.

In its infancy legal work outgrew its profession. This led to three types of conflict between competitors within the profession. The first case known as excess jurisdiction occurs when an incumbent profession cannot grow to meet demand, or increase output, and thus faces invasion by outsiders.The second kind of conflict arises when a professional group’s potential output exceeds its current jurisdiction. The third type of conflict occurs when groups who provide equivalent services at lower prices seek to invade into a settled jurisdiction.

Due to the structure of the American legal profession these conflict problems were less severe than in the British system (Abbott 1988: 252). The American system because of its use of large firms and the replacement of clerkship with law school, helped it to produce higher output, thus it avoided problems related to demand and supply (Abbott 1988: 252). Taken together, this shows that the differences in the development of the English and American legal system was caused by the actions of the two professions themselves, the general social environment, and by competitors trying to secure control of areas of importance to the legal profession (Abbott 1988: 275).Abbott posits that the birth of professions coincided with the rise of personal problems (Abbott 1988: 285). Thus, the history of professions is a biography of the relationship between problems and the tasks that seek to resolve them. The first groups that attempted to assert professional jurisdiction over these personal problems were the clergy and neurologists. This was the beginning of a gradual recognition of personal problems as legitimate categories of professional work (Abbott 1988: 286).

Other groups that subsequently joined the race for professional jurisdiction were gynecologists, psychiatrists, as well as weaker groups such as psychotherapists.In his book, Abbott outlines the history of professional development by showing that professions have evolved simultaneously through similar patterns of development. In chapters six and seven he argued that professions are organizational structures made-up of many internal components and divisions of labour.

Related to this issue was his belief that professions were interdependent structures. Abbott believed that the power of professions lay in their jurisdictional power, which set the boundaries of what an occupation’s work embraced. Work and claims to jurisdiction over tasks for Abbott was what defined a professions power. He illustrated this by showing that professions struggle and compete against each other to gain control over undefined and unclear areas of tasks, to expand their jurisdictional and overall strength. Chapters two to four devote most of their attention to addressing these issues of work, competition, and claims to legitimacy, which are related to jurisdictional power.The primary goal of Abbott’s book was to attempt to show that professions exist within a system, he did this by demonstrating that changes in one affects the other, and that one profession preempts another’s work.

This was shown by his outlined principles in chapter four of his book, which posit that external and internal changes in one profession causes disturbances through the systems of professions. For professions as he advocated constitute an interdependent system. Therefore, relations between professions and their work determine the interwoven history of professional development. In other words, one has helped to transform the other, similar to the system whereby the factors of genetics and environment symbiotically influence the direction of evolutionary processes.Abbott wanted to address the issue that to study the evolution of professions completely and accurately, it is not enough to study them individually, that researchers have to examine the relationship and development of all professions to understand any of one them.

For professions are as he states interdependent systems, which influence each other prospectively. Part B: Discussion The social construction of skill and its relationship to workers’ autonomy and discretion relate to Abbott’s discussion for it was mentioned that workers derive their skill by means of educational attainment and achievements of credentials. These merits are defined and constructed by the professions, it is up to their discretion to design the skill requirements for entry into the professional body. That being so, professions have a structured path for its prospective employees. This would make the career pattern for many workers quite rigid, providing them with very little autonomy and discretion in the career choices (Abbott 1988: 129).

We alluded to in class that sometimes the social construction of skill may help to restrain the worker’s ability for autonomy and discretion. For instance, in the French system of the 1970’s, the government pushed education to be highly specific in its professional focus (Abbott 1988: 133). Thus, the educational system produced skilled, but specifically skilled workers for society. Workers knowledge and skill was highly specific and not broad or generalizable. The French society socially constructed its own definition of skills needed for society and education.However, the inevitable consequence of such actions caused the problem of low interprofessional mobility. Workers there had very little autonomy or discretion with regard to their work (Abbott 1988: 133).

Here, we see a situation where the social construction of defining skill has led to the restriction of workers’ occupational freedom. Even with the social construction of skills that defined the potential autonomy for workers, factors related to the organizational structure of professions can limit such freedom. It was discussed in class that workers choices and freedom to choose what they want to do is often restricted by structural factors, such as division of labour and company size.Abbott alludes to this in his discussion of career patterns, he posits that the career paths in professions are often quite rigid, with very little chance for interchangeability between professions (Abbott 1988: 129). For example, a doctor cannot move into the profession of law with his present skills, and vice versa for a lawyer.

The demands of those professions constrict the autonomy professionals within those professions have, with regards to interprofessional flexibility. Although the case may be that within their own prospective professions, professionals have their own forms of discretion and occupational autonomy dependent on their skill and expertise. This inflexibility in interprofessional and career pattern autonomy is controlled by the factor of demographic rigidity. Some professions, due to their size and reproduction mechanisms, prevent them from expanding or contracting, this constrains their professionals from practicing outside of the profession (Abbott 1988: 129).

This illustrates that factors of a professions structure mediates the affect of socially constructed skill with worker’s autonomy and discretion, that the organization of a profession can confine a professionals occupational freedom. However, the situation of restricted freedom for occupational alternative is not always the case, as has been mentioned in class, sometimes through conditions of an individual’s skill and by organizational forces, workers find themselves confronted with opportunities for advancement or differentiations. Abbott illustrates that through the phenomenons of specialization and labour division workers can increase their status and thus allow themselves chances for expansions into other tasks areas (Abbott 1988: 128). Abbott advocates that for some workers their professions allow them great autonomy and discretion, this is based upon the set of socially constructed skills they obtained. For example, the skills that society has required librarians to acquire for their occupations, has given them more opportunity for personal autonomy and discretion regarding their work (Abbott 1988: 123). Librarians are differentiated and restricted only by their own diverse choice of clientele (Abbott 1988: 123). They can choose to work in schools, industry, government, public, and even in academic areas.

Their socially demanded skills in research and knowledge allow them to move from one professional arena to another with ease, for their skills are highly generalizable (Abbott 1988: 123). Sometimes, an individuals credentials so happens allow him or her access into other professions, giving him or her discretion to choose where he or she wants to work, or what tasks he or she wants to do.Abbott argues that some credentials allow individuals to claim jurisdiction under more than one profession, allowing them autonomy to choose where they want to reside, and allowing them the opportunity to switch over to another jurisdiction as they wish (Abbott 1988: 103).

For example, Abbott proposes that a degree such as a M.B.A, because of its broad coverage of diverse forms of knowledge and training, allows its owners numerous areas for claimants (Abbott 1988: 103). Thus, students of diverse specialties as psychology, sociology, law, economic, etc. can claim jurisdiction in business management even though their primary study has no relations, as long as they possess the certification of a M.B.A degree.

Simply by possessing credentials under a certain expertise and skill that society has defined as expert, individuals can increase their autonomy of career choice by great folds. This points to the fact that the attainment of what society constructs as expert skill, can help in ones’ achievement of autonomy and discretion.Another process that leads to the autonomy of the individual is through the process of degradation. Degradation leads to the explicit division of labour, which inevitably allows workers different career directions and alternatives (Abbott 1988: 126). In his discussion of the profession of computer programmers, Abbott illustrates that the sudden explosion in the computerization of industry in the 1970’s created a large demand for computer programmers. This led to a division in the work between normal and specialist programmers, and while causing the subordination of some, this created many new opportunities for specialty (Abbott 1988: 127). Specialists in that field were presented with total autonomy and discretion with regards to their work.

They could set their own standards and jurisdiction, for there existed no forbearers in their expertise to restrict the creation of their own jurisdiction (Abbott 1988: 123).As it has just been illustrated, the social construction of skill and its relationship to workers’ autonomy and discretion has not always been a positive one. In some circumstances, workers are provided with great freedom with regards to their work, but in others, the defined skills constructed by society help to restrict the autonomy and discretion of workers. Factors such as government intervention, the organizational structure of professions, individual merit and choice, and processes of labour division and destruction all play a role in determining the occupational free choice of workers. Abbott’s book outlined many of these factors, his findings helped to substantiate ideals related to this topic discussed in class. Bibliography Reference Abbott, Andrew.

The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labour.Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988.