Skip to main content

The System of Professions

An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor

In The System of Professions Andrew Abbott explores central questions about the role of professions in modern life: Why should there be occupational groups controlling expert knowledge? Where and why did groups such as law and medicine achieve their power? Will professionalism spread throughout the occupational world? While most inquiries in this field study one profession at a time, Abbott here considers the system of professions as a whole. Through comparative and historical study of the professions in nineteenth- and twentieth-century England, France, and America, Abbott builds a general theory of how and why professionals evolve.

452 pages | 6.00 x 9.00 | © 1988

Sociology: Occupations, Professions, Work

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
The Professions Literature
The Concept of Professionalization
Cases of Professional Development
I. Work, Jurisdiction, and Competition
2. Professional Work
Objective and Subjective
Academic Knowledge
3. The Claim of Jurisdiction
Internal Structure
4. The System of Professions
The Implications of Exclusion: A System of Professions
Sources of Systems Disturbances
The Mechanisms of Jurisdiction Shift: Abstractions
II. The System’s Environment
5. Internal Differentiation and the Problem of Power
Internal Stratification
Client Differentiation
Workplace, Workplace Structure, and Internal Divisions of Labor
Career Patterns
6. The Social Environment of Professional Development
Forces Opening and Closing Jurisdictions
The Internal Organization of Professional Work
Changing Audiences for Jurisdictional Claims
Co-optable Powers, Oligarchy, and the New Class
7. The Cultural Environment of Professional Development
Changes in the Organization of Knowledge
New Forms of Legitimacy
The Rise of Universities
III. Three Case Studies
8. The Information Professions
The Qualitative Task Area
The Quantitative Task Area
The Combined Jurisdiction
9. Lawyers and Their Competitors
Potential Jurisdictional Conflicts of the Legal Profession
Complaints about Unqualified Practice and Other Invasions
10. The Construction of the Personal Problems Jurisdiction
The Status of Personal Problems, 1850-75
The First Response to "American Nervousness"
The Psychiatric Revolution
The Rise of Psychotherapy
Conclusion: The Clergy Surrender
11. Conclusion
The System of Professions
Theory and the Professions


American Sociological Association: ASA-Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award (1999-2005)

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press