Discourses of Professional and Enterprising Agency: Overlaps and Conflicts

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Antero OLAKIVI, University of Helsinki, Finland
The cultural ideal of enterprising agency is gaining new grounds in modern societies. Although enterprising agency can mean many things, in general, enterprising agents are conceived as creative, innovative, proactive, reflexive, self-governing and target-oriented agents who can develop themselves, solve problems in their societal environments and, finally, make things happen. In an increasingly strong sense, the cultural ideal of enterprising agency seems to align with the cultural ideal of modern, individual agency. In contemporary societies, actors in various settings – from schools to welfare provision and business organizations – are expected to act in enterprising ways. Professional actors make no exception.

On the one hand, the ideals of enterprising agency sit well with conventional ideals of professional agency. Professional discourses, as well, highlight professional actors’ self-governance, reflexivity and ability to make things happen, among other enterprising attributes. In theory, professional actors should, therefore, find enterprising ideals ethically appealing. On the other hand, enterprising ideals also highlight flexibility, including actors’ ability to overcome societal and cultural structures and boundaries. Such boundaries can also include traditional divisions of labor and established fields of knowledge and expertise, conventionally conceived as pivotal to professional collectives.

This paper has two aims. First, it examines the general overlaps and conflicts in professional and enterprising discourses, along with their socio-political and organizational consequences. Second, it examines the overlaps and conflicts in professional and enterprising discourses, and their consequences, in a particular empirical case: in social care work organization in Finland.