The Crisis in Professionalism and the Need for a Normative Approach

The Crisis in Professionalism and the Need for a Normative Approach

Gerrit Glas (Vrije Universiteit, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8006-5.ch001

Abstract

This chapter analyzes the crisis in professionalism from a historical and conceptual point of view. It describes the development of professional practices as part of the process of modernization (i.e., the rationalization of working processes and the increasing division and specialization of labor). This process was successful, but has also been accompanied by tendencies to bureaucracy, alienation, meaninglessness, and dehumanization. The chapter describes a set of desiderata for a conceptual framework that successfully avoids these pitfalls and sketches how a so-called normative practice approach could provide a conceptual and normative framework that enables professionals to disentangle and remedy the tensions and ambivalences within their professional practices.
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Introduction

This chapter focuses on the concept of professionalism. It gives an analysis of the crisis in professionalism and argues for a normative approach.1 It provides a conceptual framework to understand professionalism and analyses what is needed to solve critical issues in the current debate about professions. It describes how the development of professional practices should be understood as part of the process of modernization, i.e., the rationalization of working processes and the increasing division and specialization of labor. Critical elements in this process are alienation of laborers from their labor; dehumanizing tendencies in the provision of services; and risk of a decline towards bureaucracy, anonymity and meaninglessness.

The chapter proceeds with a description of what is needed for a professionalism that is able to withstand these tendencies. It ends with a summary of the argument that will be developed in this and the next introductory chapters.

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