A wider range of illustrative neo-Weberian work
The detail provided in the Anglo-American medical case study above has hopefully been instructive in highlighting the distinctive features of neo-Weberianism in operation. This will now be followed by further examples of its application, without contrasting it so systematically with other macro structural perspectives, in the two societies concerned to a range of other professions. In the broader health field, for example, a neo-Weberian approach is again well represented by Freidson (1970),
Competing theories of professions 71 who explored how officially underwritten professional standing was obtained by comparing optometry and pharmacy in the United States. He found that they both had the same minimum period of training and similar degrees of specialisation and abstract knowledge. Yet, while in most American states the trained optometrist could legally diagnose and prescribe, the trained pharmacist could not. This comparison serves as a further riposte to the unilinear interpretation of professionalisation set out in the taxonomic work of Wilensky (1964) considered in the last chapter. It also reinforces the distinctive neo-Weberian fascination with the socio-political aspects of professionalism. In this case, it may be concluded that power and rhetoric is of greater significance than knowledge and training because the subordinated profession of pharmacy has historically been more strongly subject to medical dominance than the limited profession of optometry.
Moving on to the treatment of non-human animals, neo-Weberians have also recently explored the creative interplay between professional self-interests and the public interest in explaining patterns of professionalisation - as illustrated by the case of veterinary medicine in Britain (Whiting, May and Saks, 2020). Importantly, as Saks (1995) has argued, professional self-interests and the public interest are not necessarily polarised concepts, but can coalesce as well as work against each other in securing exclusionary social closure. For neo-Weberians who steer a closer path to that taken by Weber (2011) himself, their interaction needs to be resolved through careful empirical inquiry and not simply read off or dogmatically imposed upon particular situations - as often happens with other approaches. The example of the professional altruism debate in law is instructive in showing how neo-Weberians provide such an evidential base. Here Halliday (1987) in exemplary fashion examined the archives of the Chicago Bar Association and a national survey of bar legislative and judicial actions in the United States. On the basis of this research, he concluded that the quest for monopoly was more public spirited than self-interested as it was oriented towards the improvement of law and the legal system. Despite the ‘civic professionalism’ of American lawyers, though, the Bar Association was found to have at times acted vigorously in its own interests, but its overall operation served the common good.
Occupational success in a competitive marketplace for neo-Weberians, however, ultimately hinges on the state being persuaded that professionalisation is a desirable outcome. From a neo-Weberian platform, Macdonald (1995) has shown that it was crucial for accountants and architects to put forward acceptable political objectives for state officials for them to professionalise in Britain. In this process, modernstates and societies have usually been more receptive to the case of minority groups in relation to professions, notwithstanding strong resistance to their claims in earlier periods (Hearne, Metcalfe and Piekkari, 2012). Nonetheless, minorities have not always achieved the positive outcomes that might otherwise be anticipated; Bolton and Muzio (2008) found from their neo-Weberian analysis of professional projects in law, management and teaching in Britain, for instance, that - while these produced greater opportunities for women - gendered patterns of exclusion, segmentation and stratification persisted. Parallel gender restrictions were discovered by Kuhlmann and Annandale (2012) in a variety of contemporary health professional fields. And. as Saks (2015b) has noted, in both Britain and the United States, inequalities within and between professions can invidiously impact on inequalities without - leading to further forms of social exclusion amongst their clientele based on gender, as well as class and ethnicity.
Other neo-Weberian contributors have written extensively not just about development in single, silo-based professions as set out above, but also interprofessional working across occupational groups in a variety of fields including education, housing, nursing, the police, social work, and youth and community work (Barrett, Sellman and Thomas, 2005). This highlights that there is more to the analysis of professional groups for neo-Weberians than simply instrumental turf wars between professions and other occupational groups over jurisdictions (Abbott, 1988). Some neo-Weberian theorists of professions recognise that collaborative ways of working can be more helpful than not for the wider society (Leathard, 2003). Such contributions, of course, have also had their critics, including those drawn from the counterposed perspectives outlined above. As more general criticisms of the neo-Weberian approach to professions have not yet been considered, this chapter now turns to consider the critiques to which existing neo-Weberian analyses can be subjected within this perspective. This picks up on some of the weaknesses we have already touched upon in the examination of medical professionalisation from a neo-Weberian perspective on both sides of the Atlantic. The response to such critiques is also presented in defence of this approach. It is vital that we understand this retort because - as the favoured theoretical framework employed by the author - it is used extensively to consider the issues examined in the remaining chapters of this book.