The Regulation of Professionals; Two Conflicting Perspectives
Legisprudence, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 147-171, 2009
Erasmus Working Paper Series on Jurisprudence and Socio-Legal Studies No. 09-01
28 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2009 Last revised: 10 May 2010
Date Written: August 17, 2009
The central thesis of this paper is that professionals and state regulators have incompatible perspectives, both on their professional practice and on the role of (self-)regulation. Regulators have a top-down perspective (with the state at the top) and focus on the product of the professions. Quantitative measurable output is what counts primarily, and regulation is an instrument to improve that output. Professionals have a centre-periphery perspective (with the profession at the centre) and focus on the professional practice. The quality of professional work is what we should focus on primarily and the standards implicit in the profession are what should guide us here. External regulation is usually a nuisance or a burden. These perspectives clash, which may explain the current dissatisfaction among professionals. I discuss two partly successful strategies to mitigate this conflict. The first is to construct a buffer or transformer between the two perspectives, consisting of an interstitial managerial layer. The second is to try to reframe the opposition.
Keywords: professions, top-down regulation, professional autonomy, aspirations, self-regulation, reframing, managerialization, James Scott, Schoen and Rein, perspectivism, practice versus product, output-criteria, command-control
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