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Professionalization

S. E. Shortt described professionalization as ‘A process by which a heterogeneous collection of individuals is gradually recognised, by both themselves and other members of society, as constituting a relatively homogenous and distinct occupational group.’

The process of professionalization began in full in the nineteenth century. Medicine is one of the clearest examples (and relates to topics we cover like medicine & healing, mesmerism etc). The first ever edition of the British Medical Journal in 1840 discussed a bill to be passed that would establish a college and register of medicine.  The Medical Act of 1858 was intended to separate the ‘quacks’ from qualified practitioners, by self-regulating the profession through minimum training; a controlling-body and a register of all practitioners. However, Dr Victoria Bates (Social History of Medicine, University of Bristol) has noted that many quacks remained practicing.

Some of the big themes of professionalization are knowledge and power (which we could think about also in relation to magic and science). Specifically in relation to medicine, scholars such as Foucault and Jewson have argued that as medicine moved from the ‘bedside’ to the hospital, it lost its discursive elements between the patient and practitioner. Arguably, the production and dissemination of knowledge became more one-sided, being imposed from above by the medical profession.

Ruth Barton notes however, that professionalization wasn't necessarily the intended outcome and nor was it dependent on the exclusion of 'amateurs'. Barton groups the changes in the social organization of science into four aspects, corresponding to different causal processes:

1) The increasing number of jobs requiring scientific knowledge and skills.

2) The demands for greater recognition through more and better paid positions, research and respect to expert knowledge.

3) The rise of specialised training and qualifications.

4) The decline of a leisured class.

Barton also emphasises the anachronism of referring to 'Scientists', the contemporary term was 'men of science'

Barton, Ruth., "Men of Science": Language, Identity and Professionalization in the Mid-Victorian Scientific Community, History of Science, 41 (2003), 75-106.

‘Professionalization’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professionalization [accessed 10/02/2016]

Mr. Warburton's Bill for the Regulation of the Medical Profession, Prov Med Surg J (1840), 1-13

Waddington, Ivan, ‘The movement towards the professionalization of medicine’, BMJ, 301 (1990), 688-90

Jewson, N. D., ‘The Disappearance of the Sick-Man from Medical Cosmology, 1770–1870’, International Journal of Epidemiology, 38 (2009 [1976]), 622-33

Lawrence, C., ‘Incommunicable Knowledge: Science, Technology and the Clinical Art in Britain 1850-1914’, Journal of Contemporary History, 20 (1985), 503–20

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