Once regarded as safe havens, the professions are now in the eye of the storm

17. October 2015

Date: 17-10-2015
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter
Subject: Professor Dr Robot QC

IN 1933, as the Depression ground on, two British sociologists, Alexander Carr-Saunders and Paul Wilson, wrote a book celebrating the professions. They describe them as “stable elements” in a turbulent world, which “inherit, preserve and hand on a tradition.” They act as “centres of resistance to crude forces which threaten steady and peaceful evolution”.

Professions resist these “crude forces” through high barriers to entry. They routinely limit their recruitment to people with degrees. Some, such as medicine or law, require professional licences and sometimes membership in professional bodies. Others demand long periods of apprenticeship: although anybody can call themselves a management consultant, elite firms such as McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group provide their recruits with extensive training and only promote a minority to partnerships. The oldest professions also emphasise the importance of tradition: professors dress up in medieval gowns on ceremonial occasions and British barristers wear wigs. Read the rest of this entry »