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Ethics and Professionalism

Ethics and Professionalism

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Ethics and Professionalism
    Book Description:

    John Kultgen explores the ways morality and professional ideals are connected. In assessing the moral impact of professionalism in our society, he examines both the structure and organization of occupations and the ideals and ideology associated with professions. Differing from standard treatments of professional ethics, Ethics and Professionalism recognizes that it is the practices within the professions that determine whether rules and ideals are used as masks for self-interest or for genuinely moral purposes.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0254-0
    Subjects: Philosophy
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-viii)
  3. PREFACE (pp. ix-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: PROFESSIONALISM AND MORALITY (pp. 3-16)

    Is it a moral obligation to be as professional as possible in one’s work? And is it a mark of professionalism to act morally? Or do professionalism and morality have nothing to do with one another?

    On the one hand, should one always do one’s work in a professional manner or does morality sometimes demand unprofessional conduct? Must one ever violate the standards of professionalism in the name of something more important?

    On the other hand, must professionals remain scrupulously moral in order to adhere to the standards of professionalism? Employers and clients sometimes demand questionable actions of professionals precisely...

    • 2 ETHICAL PREMISES (pp. 19-37)

      In this chapter, concepts from current ethical theory will be utilized to evaluate professional practices, but points of theory will not be argued. The chapter will simply layout premises for the analysis. The demonstration of their validity will be indirect, to the extent to which the analysis of professionalism is cogent.

      The point of view taken here is consequentialist. ‘Right’ is defined in terms of the consequences of actions, including the intrinsic characteristics realized in the actions themselves and their external effects. Among the effects relevant to evaluating actions are those that flow directly from the actions in their immediate...


      The considerations of the previous chapter were advanced from the standpoint of the agent facing moral choices. The question was, what facts and norms should an individual take into consideration in deciding what to do on a specific occasion under specific circumstances?

      Our analysis also must approach the issues from another direction. Parameters for individual choices and the consequences of individual actions are determined by their institutional context. The institutions within which professionals practice empower them to act and provide them with considerable autonomy in action, while setting limits to those actions. Practicable ideals for professionalism must take account of...

    • 4 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORIES (pp. 57-71)

      My barber displays a plaque awarded to him by Redken Laboratories for training in the use and merchandising of its products. It bears the motto “Professionalism through Science and Education.” He is proud to be identified as a professional and Redken assures him that he is one. Clearly, however, his idea of professions is not what sociologists have in mind. They consider high status to be a mark of professions and barbering hardly enjoys that.

      Superficial agreement about the characteristics of professions among sociologists masks fundamental disagreements, as I shall show in succeeding chapters. These disagreements are reflected in the...

    • 5 THE FUNCTIONALIST MODEL (pp. 72-98)

      The functionalist model will be presented uncritically before probing its weaknesses from the conflict perspective.

      The last chapter listed some twenty statements by a wide range of authors stating central characteristics of professions. To bring this material into order, the characteristics will be sorted into three categories: substantive, pertaining to the nature of professional work; structural, pertaining to the organization of professional groups; and personal, pertaining to the kind of people the professions attract and develop.

      The functionalist framework provides internal coherence for the idea of profession. The work of the professions is seen to have the character it does...

    • 6 THE CLOAK OF IDEOLOGY (pp. 99-119)

      The reader will have sensed the reek of apology, the miasma of moral complacency, hovering over the functionalist model. In explicating the model, we have not allowed ourselves to be trammelled by critical scruples. We have taken the professions of the professions at face value and constructed the most sympathetic picture we could of their processes and practices. The aim was to set forth the typification that is most pleasing to the professions and persuasive to their patrons, dressed in the most impressive accoutrements of social science.

      The keystone of the functionalist model is the claim that professions are oriented...

    • 7 THE SUBSCAPULAR REALITY (pp. 120-154)

      Typifications are avowed simplifications and idealizations. The functionalist model is proposed as an approximation of actual occupations and an ideal toward which they strive. The criticism of the model is that professions do not approximate it closely enough nor strive hard enough to achieve it for it to be a typification. Instead, it encourages the uncritical spectator to exaggerate the merits of particular occupations by imagining characteristics they do not possess and debasing ideals to fit the characteristics they do have.

      This chapter argues that the functionalist model is a justificatory myth. I use ‘myth’ in its dictionary sense of...


      We now turn to the normative issues with which this study is primarily concerned. In this chapter and the next, we examine elements in the structure and ideology of professions that ought to be preserved and possibilities of change in those that ought to be reformed. In the following chapter we will examine professional codes in two lights, as instruments of the institutions discussed in prior chapters and as expressions of ethical norms, which are discussed in the last chapters of the work. We have, then, two things to consider, proposals for the reconstruction of professions as institutions (Part III)...


      The social ideal of maximum welfare fairly distributed will not be brought into being by preachments. What are needed are not voices in the wilderness but ways to make them heeded in the workshop and marketplace. It is not enough, therefore, to articulate the professional ideal. People must be induced to pursue it, and this requires moral engineering as well as moral theory.

      The term ‘moral engineering’ raises the specter of pallid puritans drafting detailed blueprints for the lives of others. What we have in mind is rather an intelligent effort to design institutions that will foster moral practices, perhaps...

    • 10 PROFESSIONAL CODES (pp. 209-252)

      The primary reason to cut through the screen of ideology for a realistic view of the dynamics of professional life and to institute reforms in its institutional framework is to foster the observance of the professional ethic. But is there a professional ethic in any sense of the word? The term ‘professional ethics’ has several meanings. It refers, first, to the norms required by the moral point of view for the kind of work that professionals do, that is, an ideal rational ethic. This is what moral theorists try to formulate. It does not yet exist in perfected form acceptable...

    • 11 IDEALS AND CHARACTER (pp. 255-273)

      Imagine a tribe of people living in a habitable but harsh environment. A traveler brings word of an idyllic uninhabited land not many miles away but guarded by a high and perilous mountain ridge. It can be reached by scaling the mountains or an arduous journey up one long river and down another. The tribe debate whether to emigrate. If they try the mountains and fail, they will be left in desperate straits. The river route is so long they would have even less chance of reaching the New Eden, but at least there would be places to settle along...


      The ideal of dedication to proficient service for all in need asks professionals to transcend self-interest. Under favorable conditions, which society should provide, their own interests will be served fairly in the course of serving others; but the needs of clients, employers and the public determine the way they do their work, not their own needs and certainly not their wants. The power they have been granted by society must be used to the benefit of all as far as they are able to ensure this, not to exploitation of some for the benefit of others and themselves.

      Professionals, however,...

    • 13 THE PEDAGOGICAL IMPERATIVE (pp. 307-345)

      The obligation to serve all in need clashes head on with respect for client autonomy when clients do not consent to intervention in their lives, yet lack the power or rationality to care for themselves. When vital interests are at stake, paternalism is an option. Something is lost whatever the decision. Therefore, it is an obligation of the professions to minimize occasions when it is necessary. The obvious way is to seek consent from clients to the actions judged to be in their interest. Consent, however, can be manufactured, it can be misinformed or illogical, and it can support decisions...


      The burden of this part of our discussion has been to establish the priority of ideals over rules in professional ethics and to gather materials to articulate the professional ideal. Rules and the institutional structures that implement them are important, but since one function is to provide an environment for the ideal, they should be designed to shape professionals according to the ideal and create a space in which professionals can act out the demands of the ideal.

      It is now time to extract the elements of the ideal from the contexts in which we have found them and integrate...

  9. APPENDIX (pp. 373-374)
  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 375-384)
  11. INDEX OF NAMES (pp. 385-388)
  12. INDEX OF SUBJECTS (pp. 389-394)