Call for papers: Special Issue on Professionalism in a Globalising World

Special issue on Varieties of Professionalism in a Globalising World: New Theoretical Perspectives and Analytical Approaches

The sociology of professions is at a crossroads. Dealing with multiple complexities, an update of its theoretical and conceptual tools seems necessary. The rise of the knowledge society has led to a new division of labour (see Machlup 1962; Drucker 1968; and Bell 1973). From this perspective, the increasing number of professionals in all developed countries can be explained by both the emergence of new professions, as well as the expansion of more traditional ones. After all, these processes are associated with growing segmentation and stratification of professional labour markets (Brint 1994). Moreover, the economic crisis has induced an increase in the average level of workers’ qualification due to the growth of employment in advanced business services, while simultaneously it has led to a corresponding loss of low-skilled employment (Gallie 2013). Therefore, the dimension of expertise has gained new centrality, with the study of expert labour receiving renewed scholarly attention (see Muzio et al. 2008).

At the same time, the hegemony of the neoliberal discourse (Butler et al. 2012), the call for a “global professionalism” within emerging economies (Dent et al. 2016), and the increasing precariousness of knowledge workers (Murgia et al. 2016) put into question some theoretical assumptions associated with the study of professionals.

For emerging professions, the neoliberal rhetoric discourages the process of institutionalisation that had characterised the establishment of liberal professions (Wilensky 1964): instead of peer control, the newly established professionals rely on market reputation for the definition of their professional identity and for grounding their acknowledgment (Maestripieri 2016). However, the growing role of the market logic leaves room for the upsurge of intra-professional conflicts (Cucca and Maestripieri 2014) and for the increasing exposure of professionals to precariousness (Murgia et al. 2016).

For acknowledged professions, the protection derived from social closure mechanisms is in decline, leaving ground for the rise of new inequalities among professionals (Leicht 2017). In some cases, the growing insecurity that follows from a diminishing capacity to secure professionals’ markets has provoked a call for “re-regulation”, as if such stronger regulation will constitute a winning strategy to compensate for the increasing instability of professional markets. In continental European systems of professions in particular, the most powerful professional groups have succeeded in “softening” the process of liberalisation of professional service markets, but with increasing inequalities within and between groups (as in the case of Italian lawyers: see Bellini 2014; Alacevich et al. 2017).

Finally, the globalisation of the economy and the growing number of professionals in developing countries puts into question the heuristic capacity of monolithic and “Western-centric” theories of professionalism. New forms of embodying professionalism are establishing in emerging economies, which requires a renewal of the theoretical debate that now mostly focuses on advanced capitalist Western countries.

The special issue here presented aims to deal with the multiple complexities that are now emerging in the sociology of professions: the acknowledgement for emerging professions; the eroded power of peer-based systems of professionalization; the growing inequalities among professionals; the rise of precarious employment among expert labourers; the increasing entanglement of professional jurisdictions, which stems from conflicts between locally-, nationally- and globally-based professional activities; the emerging professionalism in developing countries.

For this purpose, we invite both theoretical and empirical contributions, presenting comparative analyses or case-studies, conducted at global, national or local level. Contributions on emerging and/or acknowledged professions are equally welcomed. Papers comparing different types of professional groups and/or presenting research works conducted in emerging countries are warmly encouraged. Papers are expected to focus on the following topics:

  • The growing role of the market as a base for legitimising professionalism;
  • The trends of de-regulation/re-regulation in professional acknowledgment;
  • The increasing inequalities within and between professional groups;
  • The upsurge in precariousness and insecurity for professionals;
  • The effects of globalisation in defining new forms of professionalism.

Important dates:
30/11/2017: deadline for the extended abstract of your proposal (max 1.000 words)
15/01/2018: communication of the pre-selected contributions
15/05/2018: deadline for submitting your paper (max 8.000 words)

Send your proposal to the following e-mail address, specifying in the object “CfP CAMBIO – Paper proposal”:

Please, note that: All selected papers will be submitted for double-blind review. The review process will take up to 8 weeks. The editors will notify the author(s) about the acceptance/rejection decision. Subsequently, the author(s) will have 4 weeks to submit a revised version of the paper, if required.

CAMBIO is an open-source journal, published by Firenze University Press, which has been indexed in the European Reference Index for the Humanities and the Social Sciences (ERIH PLUS).

For further information, visit the journal’s homepage:

For information on the journal’s editorial policies, visit the following web page:

Guest editors:
Andrea Bellini
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Firenze

Lara Maestripieri
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow
Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona


Alacevich F., Bellini A., Tonarelli A. (2017), Una professione plurale. Il caso dell’avvocatura  fiorentina, Firenze, Firenze University Press.

Bell D. (1973), The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society. A Venture in Social Forecasting, New York, Basic Books.

Bellini A. (2014), Gli avvocati e i paradossi della regolazione delle professioni: un esercizio autoriflessivo, «Sociologia del lavoro», 135, pp. 91-108.

Dent M., Bourgeault I.L., Kuhlmann E., Denis J.L. (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook on Professions and Professionalism. Part IV: Global Professionalism and the Emerging Economies, London, Routledge.

Brint S. (1994), In the Age of Experts. The Changing Role of Professionals in Politics and Public Life, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Butler N., Chillas S., Muhr S.L. (2012), Professions at the Margins, «Ephemera», 12 (3), pp. 259-272.

Cucca R., Maestripieri L. (2014), Architects and Consultants: Between Formal Regulation and Organised Professionalism, «Cambio. Rivista sulle trasformazioni sociali», 7, pp. 25-40.

Drucker P. (1968), The Age of Discontinuity, London, Heinemann.

Gallie D. (Ed.) (2013), Economic Crisis, Quality of Work and Social Integration, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Leicht K. (2017), The Future of Professional Work: It’s Not What You Think, Keynote plenary session – ISA RC52 “Sociology of Professional Groups” Interim Meeting “Change in Professions and Professionalism – Signs and Directions”, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Oslo, 8-10 June 2017 (Unpublished paper).

Machlup F. (1962), The Production and Distribution of Knowledge in United States, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Maestripieri L. (2016), Professionalization at Work: The Case of Italian Management Consultants, «Ephemera», 16 (2), pp. 31-52.

Murgia A., Maestripieri L., Armano E. (2016), The Precariousness of Knowledge Workers (Part 1): Hybridisation, Self-Employment and Subjectification, «Work Organisation, Labour & Globalisation», 10 (2), pp. 1-8.

Muzio D., Ackroyd S., Chanlat J.-F. (2008), Redirections in the Study of Expert Labour: Established Professions and New Expert Occupations, London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Wilensky H.L. (1964), The Professionalization of Everyone?, «American Journal of Sociology», 70 (2), pp. 137-158.

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