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Sociological Approaches to the Professions

Thomas Brante
Acta Sociologica
Vol. 31, No. 2 (1988), pp. 119-142
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4200695
Page Count: 24
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Sociological Approaches to the Professions
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Abstract

Studies of the professions clearly illustrate the intricate interplay between general conceptions of society and history, sociological theory, definitions of social categories, empirical research and political values -- or, more briefly, between theory, 'facts' and politics. In this article the interplay is illustrated by the two dominant theory-constructions on professions in sociology. The first is the functionalist or 'naive' tradition, the second the neoweberian or 'cynical' alternative. It is argued that both traditions are permeated by several shortcomings. In particular, they have universalistic claims, but are in fact outcomes of professionals' own self-images during specific and limited social and historical circumstances. Sociologies of professions turn out to be ideologies of professionals. In a concluding section the preconditions for a more realistic approach to the professions are outlined.

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