28 - 31 August 2013
Torino, Italy

RN19 – Sociology of Professions

Ruth McDonald ruth.mcdonald@nottingham.ac.uk University of Nottingham, UK

Crisis, critique and change: professions and professionalism in challenging times

In a context of social, political and economic breakdown, there is a pressing need to foster an understanding of the crisis and the role of critique in interpreting and affecting change. The focus of this session is the exploration of professions and occupational groups in the context of crisis, critique and change and we invite papers from sociologists and social scientists that address these themes.

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.


Joint Sessions

  • b0219JS16Patients, Citizens and Professionals in Europe: Modern Health Care Societies in Crisis

    Joint session with RN16 – Sociology of Health and Illness

    Chairs: Gunnar Scott Reinbacher & Ruth McDonald

    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. This raises questions about the way in which stakeholders such as citizens and professionals are responding. There has been a tendency for sociologists of the professions to view professions as self-interested, engaged in professional projects to increase status and resources for their members. However, a more altruistic view sees professionals as engaged in struggles to defend the public and patient interest.

    The aim of this joint session is to understand, how crises are influencing professions and professionals in Healthcare and the ways in which this relates to the interest of patients and citizens. But not only understand but also see possibilities for critique and opposition to this trend.

    Some of the themes that the session could address is:

    • How does the state respond to the crises, maybe by trying to shift responsibility to others and to specific groups outside of the state? To what extent are there similarities and differences between nation states and how might we understand these?
    • What happens to professional identity in the context of state responses to financial crisis and what are the implications for professionals and patients?
    • How far do theories of professions, which are informed by Weberian views of closure, account for responses to crisis? How else might we understand and theorise these developments?
    • How do states/3rd party payers use levers to try to change behaviors of citizens and professionals?
    • To what extent can citizens and patients enter into alliances with professionals to defend ‘the public good’ in the context of such crises?
    • The many Years of improvement in Healthcare, protection on patients information, quality of care, are these processes threatened during the crises, do we have to start up again in ten Years?
    • Professionals are taking part in getting citizens to change behaviors through nudging processes and ‘self-management’ programmes which can be seen as ‘responsibilsation’ of citizens. To what extent should health care professionals take on state sponsored agendas on these issues? Are there ways in which professionals and citizens can colonise this agenda to defend broad conceptions of citizenship which have traditionally underpinned European welfare states in recent years?
  • a04JS19JS16Professionals, Citizens and the Production of Health

    Joint session with RN16 – Sociology of Health and Illness

    Ruth McDonald, ruth.mcdonald@nottingham.ac.uk University of Nottingham Chair

  • 19JS28Managing competitiveness in working/professional environments: exploring elite sports

    Joint session with RN28 – Society and Sports

    Chairs: Patrick Mignon & Ruth McDonald

    Elite sport is a paradigmatic example of those very competitive arenas where positions at the summit are limited to a small number of actors, which accumulate prizes and reputation. Access to these positions goes through selections and trials which suppose the mobilization of different kind of resources to face pressure of competition, uncertainty of sporting results and career achievement, rivalry between peers and secure social promotion. Division of labor between specialists, team work, technologies of transformation (physical or psychological) are means which are set up by coaches and performance directors but athletes build their own support system through psychological techniques, religious exercises and beliefs or social networks.

    Through this research of success, elite sport shows tension between functional division of labor and claims for authority on professional fields or sharing of outcomes, individual achievement and necessity of collective organization.

    This session takes the study of elite sport as a basis to enable scientific exchange with other domains of sociology which analyse working/professional environments and actors – like for instance artists, elite scientists or medical specialists – in areas dominated by high competiveness and impressive inequalities.

Thank you very much to all participants for making esa torino an outstanding conference.