• Andrea Søndergaard Poulsen
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
This master thesis examines the topic of professions. Social science scholars have widely studied professions since the beginning of the 20th century. Significant contributions include Merton´s (1982) suggestion that members of a profession are required to comply a professional ideal constituted of the three values knowing, doing and helping clients and Moore´s (1970) description of how members of a profession have concrete professional responsibilities related to the specific client, fellow members of the profession and the larger society. However, prior research has not yet treated the question of which specific structural forces can inhibit members of a profession in complying these ideals and responsibilities. It is, thus, the purpose of this master thesis to contribute to academics with an investigation of this knowledge gap through a theoretical examination of structural forces within the three different levels: society, organisational and professional group level. This examination will be conducted by addressing the research question:

Which drivers can inhibit members of a profession in fulfilling their professional ideal and professional responsibilities?

The master thesis first approaches the research question by defining the phenomena professions and review its historical emergence. This introductory section clarifies how professions are specified as a work-related phenomenon which conceptualises both a legally protected activity and a sociological group. The review of the historical emergence of professions outlines how the development of professions vary across national boundaries and how the development often proceeds as an evolutionary adaptation process where the professions continuously adapt to both internal dynamics within the specific profession group and to external dynamics in the surrounding society. This historical presentation is followed by an examination of the content of the universal professional ideal, professional responsibilities and types of both, indented and unintended professional betrayal. The primary theoretical framework for this examination is Merton (1982), Moore (1970) and a self-developed taxonomy which categorises different types of professional betrayal.

The method used to analyse structural drivers, which can inhibit members of a profession in fulfilling their professional ideal and professional responsibilities is a theoretical review of literature concerning professions. The selection of literature was primarily based on the inclusion criteria: literature must be critical theories or analysis using critical theory methods, in order to match the master thesis emancipatory knowledge interest.

The result of the analysis is a finding of five driving forces which can lead to different types of professional betrayals. These are: (1) political devaluation of expert voices, (2) commercialisation of the professions, (3) flexibilization of the labour market, (4) standardisation of professional services and (5) increased pressure on the professions. The master thesis then discusses different possible interplays between these five identified driving forces. This discussion first treats linear dynamics by exploring how macro-level factors in society may reflect at a meson level in the organisations which are ultimately reflected at a microlevel within the profession group. This discussion leads to the assumption that linear dynamics is not sufficient enough to capture the complexity of the relationships between the driving forces. The master thesis therefore secondly nuances the discussion by examining possible circular dynamics were mutually reinforcing interaction within the driving forces (1) political devaluation of expert voices and (4) standardisation of professional services are identified.

The master thesis treats research limitations by reflecting on biases that have influenced the analysis. This discussion identifies how the choice to disregard individualising causal explanations to professional betrayals can be viewed as a primary bias in the process. A triangulation follows this discussion with an extensive quantitative survey-report by Gallup (2017), which validates the identified driving factors. In addition to this triangulation, the master thesis then discusses practical implications of the analysis findings and suggest an intervention based on multiple small initiatives at the three primary levels which address different aspect of both, linear and circular interplays. Finally, the master thesis recommends that the analytical basis for this intervention must be qualified by further research.
Publication date5 Aug 2019
Number of pages71
ID: 308666075