J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

“If tools could make anyone who picked them up an expert, they’d be valuable indeed.” Plato, The Republic

Professions and Disciplinization

Posted by chanders on November 1, 2005

Does Foucault have anything to say about the professions that might be relevant to the study of journalism? Of course he does. Doesn’t he always?

There are two Foucaudian streams to the analysis of the professions (for the record: it seems like Foucauldian analysis is currently the hot way to analyze professionalization, partly for good reasons, but partly for reasons that seem to have to do with academic faddishness).

  • Professionalism / Professional Discourse as Discipline (Evetts 2003; Fournier 1999): Rather than looking at professions as an ideal type or at professionalization as a project, this strand looks at the discourse of professionalism as "a disciplinary mechanism" which allows "control from a distance through the construction of appropriate work identities and conducts."  Such an analysis, the authors argue, is useful when looking at the growth of professional discourse in occupations not normally thought of as professions (like journalism). While I wouldn’t deny the validity of this line of thought, it seems less useful to me than …
  • Foucauldian pespectives on the emergence of "professional fields of expertise" and the relationship between fields of socially useful (and monopolized) fields of knowledge and professional power (Fournier 2000; Larson 1991). In other words, if part of the professional project depends on the monopolization and accreditization of knowledge, how are these fields of knowledge created? Analysts writing from this persective argue that such knowlege does not exist in relation to an observeable outside world; rather, "the core of the professional project is the constitution of disciplinary knowledge as representing or mirroring a ‘naturally isolated’ and self-contained referent object in the world." (Fournier 71)
    • Maintains the value of the professional project; does not deny the validity of neo-Weberian perspectives but adds to them.
    • Claim that this area not often studied in the sociology of the professions –> but it IS studied in histories / sociology of journalism, indeed, the emergence of journalism’s  "constitution of disciplinary knowledge as representing or mirroring a
      ‘naturally isolated’ and self-contained referent object in the world" — objectivity– lies at the core of journalism studies.
    • Can then place these studies "within" Fournier’s typology??



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