The argument of this paper is that professions and professionals have a crucial role in society which is 'to speak truth to power'. This was one of the roles of the first professions of priesthood, medicine and law but today the evidence suggests that professionalism is being reduced in scope to the demonstration of technical expertise and efficient performativity only.
Historically, professionalism involved the demonstration of esoteric knowledge and expertise but it also involved commitment to codes of moral, ethical and social conduct. These commitments might, in certain circumstances, because some professionals to be critical of or even oppose, policies introduced by powerful authorities.
This analysis will be developed in three sections. In Section 1the origins of the professions in the Middle Ages, in the culture of the sacred will be examined.
In Section 2 the transition of professionalism from the culture of the sacred to the culture of the profane by the nineteenth century will be discussed, with special reference to Emile Durkheim’s classic text, Professional Ethics and Civic Morals (1957/1992)
In Section 3, the contemporary situation of professionalism will be analyzed, with special relevance to those professionals who work in the fields of economics, finance, banking and business studies and also those who work in the field of education. This section will focus on what can be called professionalism in the culture of global marketisation ......