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13. Professions

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Chapter Summary

Few ideas have been more central to understanding the organization of societies than the division of labor, and few segments of labor have sustained as much long-lasting interest than professions. Classical sociologists considered the professions a central feature of society and a key to understanding social structure. Professions thus figured prominently in key theoretical statements by sociologists on the problems of action and social order in modern society. According to Herbert Spencer, professions emerged in a stage of societal development when basic needs of survival have been met. For Emile Durkheim, professions exercised expertise in the interest of the public and acted as guardians of the moral order of society. A key part of formal professional socialization entails the transmission of culture that reflects a profession's values, whereas informal culture refers to folklore, symbols, and interpersonal interactions that reinforce differences between professional and lay roles.

Keywords: Emile Durkheim; Herbert Spencer; medical profession; professional environment; professional socialization



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