The Politics of Professionalism


in English Lawyers between Market and State

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780198260349
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682094 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Socio-Legal Studies

The Politics of Professionalism

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Mature professions — of which late twentieth-century English law was a leading example — share several essential features. Disturbances in any of them can compel reconfiguration of all the others. Professions aspire to superior social status. But a profession's status is also affected by its members' ascribed characteristics: earlier through exclusivity, later through representativeness. Professions trt to suppress competition in order to protect profits and status. Earlier professions passively responded to demand, typically dispersed among many small consumers. Contemporary professions actively stimulate demand, typically concentrated in a few large third-party payers. Falling demand has had dramatic effects in the past: fluoride treatments on dentistry, the housing market collapse on solicitors, ATMs on bank tellers. Professions have claimed the right to regulate themselves, but failures to handle complaints promptly or correct misbehaviour provoked calls for external intervention. They achieved each of these essential objectives through collective action, which confronted apathy, internal divisions, rank-and-file resentment, and leadership failures.

Keywords: twentieth-century English lawyers; fluoride treatments; solicitors; rank-and-file resentment; leadership failures

Chapter.  12171 words. 

Subjects: Legal System and Practice

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