Professional power and the state : a study of five professions in state welfare agencies in the UK
The thesis defines a profession as a group of workers who have been authorised by the state to determine aspects of their own work, training and organisation,usually,but not necessarily,as a result of their specialist expertise. It argues that knowledge about professions would be advanced by examining the social structures and processes of regulation and management of different professions, rather than by concentrating on the particular characteristics of the work or of the workers. Following this approach the thesis presents research into the different national regulatory structures, and local management structures of five "welfare service" professions in the U.K. In explaining the differences in structure the thesis shows how each occupation exploited characteristics which provided power in particular situations to establish organisation and control advantageous to its interests,and how characteristics such as specialist knowledge, status, and income were stabilised and further developed as a result. It also examines the complex involvement of the state in legitimating, advancing and limiting professional power. The main contribution of the thesis is to develop Freidson's theory of professions through logical critique and by reference to empirical evidence about five U.K. welfare professions, and by, - showing that national regulatory structures do not define a division of labour or provide the absolute autonomy which Freidson proposed, - showing that different types of professional autonomy are institutionalised in local management structures, usually on central government recommendation, and by providing a typology of professional autonomy based on empirical research, - showing that characteristics of professions are related to, but not, as proposed by Freidson, determined by professional autonomy, - developing Freidson's general perspective to accommodate the empirical evidence by reconceptualising the nature of professions in terms of professional authority, rather than autonomy, and by developing a model of the authorisation of professional power. In developing Freidson's theory the thesis also contributes, - to knowledge about professional organisation within state welfare bureaucracies, mainly by providing detailed descriptions of differences and changes in management structures, - to the methodology of action research by developing the theoretical basis of a method for investigating the legitimation of authority in establishing management structures, - to knowledge about the details of the relationship between the state and welfare professions, mainly by providing evidence of the involvement of the state at national and local levels in decisions and structures which profoundly shape the nature of practice, relationships with clients, and futures of welfare occupations.