Professional work in the new work order : a sociological study of the shift from professional autonomy based in expertise to professional accountability based in performativity

  • Beverley Axford

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Profession' and 'professional' are shifting signifiers that have taken on a range of new meanings in the past two decades as professional occupations have been reshaped by moves to 'flexible' (deregulated and decentred) work processes and work practices. The role of modern professions was significant in terms of the democratic elements of the professionalising project. But how do moves away from the modern bureaucratically-structured professions, and a professional ideal based on the concept of universal service, impact on graduates currently entering professional employment domains in which new 'performativity-based' management regimes are replacing the older control structures? This study draws on a range of sociological literature to explore both the structural and discursive changes in the meaning of profession practice. The study also draws on a number of research projects, including materials from focus group interviews of final year undergraduate students, recruitment brochures, ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) statistical analyses and DEST (Australia: Department of Employment, Science and Training) graduate destination studies, and policy documents. These materials are used to argue that the employment destinations of those with professional qualifications and credentials are now more stratified and more diverse and no longer necessarily coupled with a lifelong career. In addition, the new management regimes that accompany the move to more flexible work processes and work practices are changing how those in professional work locations construct their sense of themselves as professional practitioners. Changes in the nature of professional work, and in the structural and discursive location of professional workers, have implications for education and training institutions. These institutions not only prepare workers for these occupational domains but are the main conduits through which access to work in the restructured labour markets is mediated. The study concludes by drawing attention to the need for educational research to be anchored in a 'sociology of employment' that is able to provide a more critical account of the relationship between education and training and entry into high status/low status employment domains.
    Date of Award2002
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMarie Brennan (Supervisor) & Peter Putnis (Supervisor)

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