Professions As the Critics of the Status Quo

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Helena FLAM, Institute of Sociology, University of Leipzig, Germany
The classical sociology of professions has posited professions as exposed to the pressures of the state and the (capitalist) market. It did not include the relationship between professions and the civil society in its purview. More recently much of it has been narrowly concerned with the neo-liberal pressures reducing professional autonomy. Modest English language literature (see Sarat and Scheingold, eds. and also Holliday, Karpik, Feeley, eds) approaches professions in a different manner. Focused on lawyers this literature shows that they have offered professional support as individuals or law firms to (right-less, underprivileged, discriminated) citizens and social movements mobilized against states and corporations. The so-called “cause” or “politicized” lawyers are defined as those who have moved beyond such occasional support activities. These (i) focus on social groups or (transgressive) issues with a conflict potential in their everyday work, and possibly cross the usual “professional boundaries” by (ii) engaging in educational/media campaigns, lobbying or committee work or by (iii) starting professional or citizen initiatives to push these issues. Not to be ignored, there is also professional status quo critical collective mobilization. This mobilization assumes different forms: (a) organizing own training, workshops and conferences, (b) setting up professional organizations and journals, c) cooperating around key court cases or reform proposals, d) partaking in and mobilizing for lawyers’ own or lawyers-led demonstrations, and, finally e) establishing and running political parties. Examples from Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and possibly also the transnational sphere will illustrate these points.