Boundaries and Professions: Towards a Processual Theory of Action

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Sida LIU, University of Toronto, Canada
This article outlines a processual theory of action for the sociology of professions. It argues that existing theories of the professions focus primarily on the questions of social order and social change in professional life but overlook the basic question of social action, namely, what do professionals do? Individual professionals, their clients and regulators are all purposive actors, and the professions are the outcomes of their collective action in the system of work. These actors in professional life fight for jurisdictions with boundary work, define expertise by diagnostic struggle and coproduction, and build social networks through exchange. Following the interactionalist tradition of the Chicago School of work and occupations, the processual theory of professional action examines the interactions of professionals and other actors over, within, and across boundaries and uses this theory of action to complement existing theories of order and change.