You are here

Due to global supply chain disruptions, we recommend ordering print titles early.


The Sociology of the Professions

The Sociology of the Professions

November 1995 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
The Sociology of the Professions is a key addition to the literature on the sociology of work. A comprehensive study of knowledge-based occupations, this new volume includes authoritative discussions of accountancy, law, and medicine, as well as the more traditional professions, like the clergy and the military. Macdonald's analysis of the professions is illustrated with numerous substantive examples and also provides comparisons between the United Kingdom, the United States, and Europe. An examination of the history of the professions prefaces a detailed analysis of professionalism and power. Macdonald goes on to examine the relationship between professionalism, knowledge, the state, social stratification, organizations, and bureaucracy. The study concludes with a discussion of the future of the professions, which focuses on the issues of the state, bureaucracy, and social power. The Sociology of the Professions is essential reading for any student of this increasingly important area of study. Lucid, clearly written and argued, Keith M. Macdonald has written an essential primer on sociology and the professions. "Keith M. Macdonald's work is richly nuanced, eminently comparative, and singularly suggestive--and thoroughly engrossing, to boot. It begins with the assertion that the currently regnant framework for dealing with professions is considerably less illuminating than that provided by scholars in the symbolic interactionist tradition, i.e., the 'collective mobility project' of the drive of occupations toward professional status. For Macdonald, this is 'the professional project' whose components he describes. Macdonald explores the degree to which different cultural contexts facilitate or deter the project: the part played by the state, the stratification order, patriarchy, and the role of knowledge as both the outcome of cognition and metaphor for behavior. The author undertakes a detailed analysis of the professional project of accountancy, primarily in terms of British data but with some comparative material from Scotland and the U.S., bringing together previous ideas and deftly applying them to a continuing story." --Choice

Sociological Analysis of the Professions
Professions and Social Stratification
The Cultural Context of Professions
Professions and the State
Patriarchy and the Professions
Knowledge and the Professions
A Professional Project - The Case of Accountancy

`Current available literature on the sociology of work has been lacking an up to date, comprehensive overview of theoretical and empirical work relation to the professions and their development. The arrival of [the book] on the bookshelves has gone a long way towards rectifying this problem... Overall this book provides a well-rounded and workable analysis of the essential features of professional development and advancement.... a book of this nature is a welcome contribution for those academically interested in debates surrounding themes of professionalization' - Work, Employment & Society

`Macdonald's is a book seeking to restore the study of the professions, after some 15 years, to mainstream sociological analysis.... The professions, according to Macdonald, lost their sociological allure because of the dead hand of functionalism; but their fortunes can be revived by the adoption of a Weberian interactionist approach. This requires the substitution of the old and essentially static question of "what part do the professions play in the established order of things?" by the more challenging and dynamic question of "how do such occupations manage to persuade society to grant them a privileged position?" At root, after all, the professions are just another interest group in society which, in the search for economic reward and social status, have successfully sought to monopolise (and thereby define) a given body of knowledge and range of practices.... Macdonald does not just enrich the study of the professions by fully contextualising them. He also uses them as a case study to illuminate more fundamental issues in society such as social stratification, patriarchy and the nature of knowledge. As in any good text, the conceptual framework and empirical evidence are clearly presented. The author's theoretical position is eclectic but nonetheless rigorous. His "ideal type" of professional project is qualified by an awareness of national and sectoral differences. Interesting contrasts are drawn between the establishment of professions in the United States and Britain where the relative importance of democratic and class pressure have traditionally placed a different emphasis on examination qualifications and "gentlemanliness"' - The Times Higher Education Supplement

`This book provides an interesting introduction to the sociology of the professions, covering much of the necessary conceptual ground. It begins by examining some of the major theoretical perspectives on porfessions, including the functionalist, interactionist and Marxist theories. At this stage, the author indicates that his own commitment is to the neo-Weberian approach and the notion of the "professional project" as a means of understanding and accounting for professions and professionalism. There then follow a number of useful chapters largely centred on this theme, encompassing such subjects as professions and social stratification; the cultural context of professions; professions and the state; patriarchy and the professions; and knowledge and the professions. Finally, the last chapter of the volume draws together the various threads of his neo-Weberian analysis of the professional project through the empirical example of accountancy.... The main reason for buying this book, however, is for the critical theoretical insights that it provides onto the analysis of the professions of the Western world, especially from a neo-Weberian standpoint. Here it stimulatingly profiles the work of influential contributors like Larson and Johnson - not to mention Foucault - as well as the development of a number of professions that figure in the text as case studies.... the book helps to fill a significant gap in the literature in the sociology of the professions.... this is a sophisticated text which should find its way on to many final year undergraduate and postgraduate reading lists' - Medical Sociology News

`Macdonald's work is richly nuanced, eminently comparative, and singularly suggestive - and thoroughly engrossing, to boot' - Choice

A good contextual introduction to our professional doctorate programme.

Dr Mehmet Ali Dikerdem
Institute for Work Based Learning, Middlesex University
July 7, 2016

This is a classic work and a main reference in the Sociology of Professions and a very good introductory book to the study of professional groups.

Dr Joana Almeida
Centre for Criminology and Sociology, Royal Holloway, University of London
August 30, 2015

This has a great chapter on the subjugation of the midwife and the midwifery profession as a whole. Still very relevant in 2014, essential reading for student midwives and those midwives undertaking further study.

Mrs Connie Mcluckie
School of Nursing, Midwifery & Social Care (Sighth, Edinburgh Napier University
March 5, 2014

For instructors

Select a Purchasing Option

Electronic version
Prices from

This title is also available on SAGE Knowledge, the ultimate social sciences online library. If your library doesn’t have access, ask your librarian to start a trial.