Radicals in the Professions: Does Anyone Remember this One?
Posted by chanders on October 21, 2005
So … if a lot of what I’ve been writing about for the last few years can be described (on some level) as a "professional project," than can we assume that there are competing groups fighting over who gets to define themselves as "professional"? … and that there are some groups who are trying to deprofessionalize, or at least reprofessionalize a certain occupational field? It seems so. If not, where’s the struggle? Andie Tucher talks about how one of the outcomes of the self-mythologizing of the "bohemian brigade" was to exclude journalistis of a certain class status; Zelizer about how TV journalists managed to define themselves as the empowered retellers of the Kennedy assasination narrative (to the exclusion of amateurs / movie makers); Friedson notes how the professionalization of medicine excluded apothecaries, etc.
The problem is that, in most of the mainstream professionalization literature in sociology, there’s very little about the groups that eventually ended up on the "outside" of the profession once all was said and done. Although the professional project is described (in one sense) as a struggle, in another sense, its also describing a somewhat "inevitable march" towards professional group respectability. Or at least, as much of this scholarship is historical, it comes off that way in hindsight once we get to the end of the story.
So, we have to look elsewhere for more deep thinking about the conflict I see going on here. Todd Gitlin, perhaps recaling his attendance at the 1967 SDS "Radicals in the Professions" conference, reccomended I check out the post-mortem scholarly exegesis of this phase of the student movement. Problem is, there’s not much I could find. Here’s what Google Scholar has to say; JSTOR isn’t much better (though there’s one hilarious review by a young Michael Schudson of a book called Professions for the people : the politics of skill.) Hmm.
So then a little bell went off in the back of my head … wasn’t there a section in my Fall 2003 Social Movements class about activist challenges to the "scientific establishment" and the catholic church? Sure enough, there is was, on Week Five– "Movements and Non-State Institutions" (lets hear it for saving old sylabi!) Francesca Polletta, who taught the class, also reccomended The New Political Sociology of Science: Institutions, Networks, and Power by Kelly Moore. Ah!! Success!! There’s also a bunch of stuff on the sylabus that I would have to track down, including what looks like a really important article by D.A. Snow (in a book that costs $95.00 [ick!] Here’s what my class notes say:
"is it easier or harder to challenge state or non-state actors? lines of power being blurry in non-state institutions? … Two analytical tactics: 1) How is protest within non-state institutions different? 2) They’re not so different and understanding once can help with understanding the other … ‘mass defection.’ etc. etc." "Focus to exclusively on the state. Snow’s challenge is a very new one. Line of research is wide open."
Of course, what I’m talking about with the bloggers isn’t really a social movement. So I’m looking at something that’s not really a social movement, and thats not really journalism, intersecting with something thats not really a profession. Hmmm. (hint: this last comment may have something to do with the previous post below this one.)