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Feeling Bad and Being Elite: A Comparative Analysis of the Anxieties and Uncertainties of Aspiring Barristers

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For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

AbstractThis paper examines the anxieties and uncertainties of aspiring barristers in order to understand the workings of elite professional status. The literature poses two diverging conceptions of negative feelings: as mechanisms for power and solidarity, concentrated at initiation, or else indicators of diminished control and breakdown. To allow for both potential meanings, this paper draws on an ethnographic study of two cohorts of trainee English barristers: one private, one public. The findings detail and compare the sources, nature, and consequences of bad feeling across the sectors. This innovative analysis detects the modes and blends of authority and cohesion, as well as differentiation, declining status, and even separation. This paper argues for intra-professional analyses as valuable groundwork for wider comparisons.

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