Professionalization

This piece by Burton J. Bledstein, The Culture of Professionalism, is amazing. My mind was spinning with thoughts about Critical Link 4 and Mette Rudvin’s presentation and paper (that I referenced in my submission to the Proceedings). (Many links cite him; here’s one of interest.)
He says professionalization is the penultimate triumph of the “Mid-Victorians” exerting control over personal and social life, by circumscribing specific areas of knowledge which bestowed the knowers with a kind of magical power in a vertically-oriented society, always looking up for self-advancement. “The autonomy of a professional person derived from a claim upon powers existing beyond the reach or understanding of ordinary humans” (p. 93-94).


It’s a challenge not to see this attitude among sign language interpreters – including myself when I argued (just a few days ago!) against the credibilty of a principle in the proposed code of ethics stating that consumers can make “informed decisions” about “interpreting dynamics.” And of course Deaf folk or any other so-called minority language user should never simply cede control to an interpreter – but I think there is a distinction between “control” and “responsibility”, and particularly between the attempt to exert control over others, and the attempt to exercise self-responsibility and be “in charge” of one’s communicative input and output and the relationships these make possible.
While that’s a specific, “live” debate which will require discussion among interpreters and all of our “consumers” (I prefer the sociolinguistic term, interlocutors), the thing that got hammered home to me in this piece is how truly colonized I am within this ideology of conceiving of a career as “the entire coherence of an intellectually defined and goal-oriented life” (p. 111-112). Bledstein describes “the promise of becoming” (p. 113) and the valorization of character: “the internal and psychological symbol of continuity that corresponded to the sociological course a person ran in a career” (p. 112). The results of professionalization? Overwhelming “conservative” (p. 92). “The professional transformed administration into an instrument of opportunity for the middle class and an instrument of regulation for the society” (p. 122).

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