The Professions in Australia : a critical appraisal

The Professions in Australia : a critical appraisal. Edited by Boreham, Paul, Pemberton, Alexander Gordon and Wilson, Paul R. (Paul Richard) St. Lucia, Qld.: University of Queensland Press, 1976.

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Title The Professions in Australia : a critical appraisal
Place of Publication St. Lucia, Qld.
Publisher University of Queensland Press
Publication year 1976
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
ISBN 0702211834
Language eng
Editor Boreham, Paul
Pemberton, Alexander Gordon
Wilson, Paul R. (Paul Richard)
Total number of pages 290
Subjects 940502 Professions and Professionalisation
Formatted Abstract/Summary

One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of twentieth century industrial societies is the proliferation in both extent and character of activities which are designed to mould, remould, repair, and adjust the social and psychological attitudes and aspirations, as well as the physical well-being, of a large and ever-increasing proportion of the population. We are referring to those occupations which have been called the "personal service" or "helping professions", a group which includes the clergy, doctors, teachers, social workers, counsellors, human relations experts, psychiatrists, and so on. The extent to which we have become dependent upon the knowledge and skill of these professional experts—whose interests enter more and more into our everyday lives—ought to give rise to serious questions concerning the shaping and direction of human society. Rarely, however, has there been such an uncritical acceptance of a social movement whose claims have such crucial implications for the whole community. For to call it a "social movement" is no exaggeration, if there is any truth in the assessment of British sociologist Paul Halmos when he claims to "have shown how the very leadership of society is penetrated, and even in some cases taken over by ... professionals and how, as a consequence of this, the ideology of this personnel permeates the quality and sets the direction of social change in our time" (Halmos 1971, p.584).

That is not to say the professions have had it all their own way. Generally, however, the murmurings of discontent have been confined to accusations surrounding the high cost of professional help or the quality of services received, as instanced by the occasional malpractice suit brought against members of the medical profession in Australia. The "big" questions about the professions have largely gone unanswered. The claims made by most professionals that they are the possessors of complex and esoteric knowledge which is beyond the understanding of the untrained individual are seldom challenged. We accept their right to intervene in personal and social problems which we believe we could not attempt to deal with by ourselves.

Characteristically, the professions also claim to employ their skills and knowledge in an objective, unbiased way and to direct their energies towards the benefit of the community as a whole rather than for personal gain or sectional self-interest. The credence which is granted to these claims is institutionalized in the legal sanctions which allow professionals the exclusive right to undertake certain activities and to perform their services in a manner which is independent of the demands of the clients with whom they are working. In other words, the professionals have become the final arbiters of the need for, and the quality of, their own services.

The aim of this volume is to undertake a critical examination of precisely those claims of the professions which have allowed them to be elevated to such an exalted position of autonomy and authority in our society. But before we do that it would be appropriate to provide some background data about the helping professions in Australia….. 
Keyword Professions -- Australia
Q-Index Code AX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Unknown
Additional Notes Permission received from University of Queensland Press to make this item publicly available on 5th June 2013

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Created: Wed, 27 Jan 2010, 09:25:43 EST by Ms Natalie Hull on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service