The Rise and Fall of Professional Authority

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:30-12:20
RC52 Sociology of Professional Groups (host committee)

Language: English

Authority is not the most elaborated concept in the sociology of professions, perhaps because the issue has been treated under other headlines such as professional power and jurisdiction. In a classic formulation, authority is defined as ‘advice which cannot safely be ignored’. This captures a range of situations where actors outside the professions may feel compelled to follow the expertise and discretionary advice of professionals even if they are not technically forced to do so or if they would prefer not to follow the advice.

Considering the changing social and political organization of knowledge, however, there may be good reasons to reconsider the constitution and development of authority more generally. While some social theorists claim a larger dependence on specialized expertise in 'reflexive modernization', narratives of decline are also common. Professional authority may for instance be challenged by clients’ access to information, detailed political regulation or the growth of non-state actors (e.g. industry, patient groups).

This panel calls for papers that investigate any aspect related to the authority of professionals, whether mainly theoretical or empirical in scope. Given the relatively premature state of existing scholarship in the field, contributions that seek to understand different dimensions of authority or the factors that may serve to strenghten or threaten authority in given contexts are particularly welcome. It is also of interest to consider how authority varies between professional groups as well as between different citizen groups, and not least how different forms of political regulation may affect or challenge authority.

Session Organizer:
Lars Thorup LARSEN, Aarhus University, Denmark
Anders BLOK, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Oral Presentations
The Dynamics of Medical Authority
Daniel MENCHIK, Michigan State University, USA
Logics of Stop-and-Check: Exploring the Social Dynamics of Police Officers’ Decision-Making amid Multiple Challenges to Their Authority
Patrick BROWN, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; Nathale VAN EIJK, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Knowledge, Status or Trust? Sources of Professional Authority in Denmark and the U.S.
Gitte Sommer HARRITS, Aarhus University, Department of Political Science, Denmark; Lars Thorup LARSEN, Aarhus University, Denmark
Professional Authority and Corporate Capitalism
Christiane SCHNELL, Institute of Social Research at the Goethe-University Frankfurt, Germany
Distributed Papers
Professionalism between the Authority of Expertise and the Authority of Office
Kirstine PEDERSEN, Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
The Fall of Primary School Teachers’ Authority
Olesya YURCHENKO, Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Federation; Valeriy MANSUROV, Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Federation