The Vulnerability of Prudential Professions. How the Concept of Practical Wisdom Explains Increasing Pressure and Allows Revisiting the Practical Question of Professional Control

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 17 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Florent CHAMPY, National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Societes, Solidarites, Territoires (LISST - Toulouse), France, France
Marc-Olivier DEPLAUDE, CRESSPA - Université Paris 8, France
This presentation first aims at showing how a general lack of awareness of the prudential nature of the work of some professions has caused increasing pressure on them. Their high level of expertise was a key argument to give them special autonomy. As objectivity is a very positive value, professionals have put this theme at the core of their discourse. First this strategy worked well. Then it became a trap. Over the past 50 years, doubts about professionals’ ability to provide high quality services, namely objective services, have been a key argument to put their power under attack. Yet some subjectivity is unescapable in prudential activities : practical wisdom (or prudentiality) aims at facing situations in which singularity and complexity bring a high level of uncertainty. This uncertainty makes bets necessary, for instance about diagnosis, prognosis, and the efficiency of different cures in the case of medical practice. The demand for objectivity thus is impossible to fully satisfy and the gap between discourse and practice justifies control. Second the presentation will show how the idea of practical wisdom allows revisiting the theme of professional control on a practical point of view. Given the prudential dimension of professional work, the level of control is not the main question : actually the link between control (or autonomy) and practical wisdom is equivocal. A more appropriate question is : how do contexts of work and controls impact the ability of professionals to practice prudentially ? We will present research conducted to answer this question.