Symbolic demarcation: the role of status symbols in preserving interprofessional boundaries

Siebert, S. (2020) Symbolic demarcation: the role of status symbols in preserving interprofessional boundaries. Journal of Professions and Organization, (doi: 10.1093/jpo/joaa004) (Early Online Publication)

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Abstract

Interprofessional demarcation is one of the key themes in the study of the professions. This study aims to understand the symbolic resources activated when an elite profession faces challenges to its task jurisdiction from a new, emerging profession. I attempt to answer the following question: ‘How are status symbols used to maintain jurisdictional boundaries between professions?’ I analyzed ethnographic material concerning one of the most elite and ancient professions: Scottish advocates—known as barristers outside Scotland. I found that when faced with competition from other professions, advocates engaged in differentiation through the use of status symbols such as professional dress in and out of court, ceremonies, and everyday rituals. I observed two concurrent processes of differentiation: the maintenance of stability of status symbols and the maintenance of mobility of status symbols, that is, the ongoing cycle of imitation and avoidance, which happens on the boundary of two competing professions. Building on the Simmel effect (1890), I argue that imitation and distinctiveness preserve professional differentiation, and that managing the stability of some symbols and the mobility of others allow elite professionals to maintain their superior status.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Early Online Publication
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Siebert, Professor Sabina
Authors: Siebert, S.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Journal Name:Journal of Professions and Organization
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:2051-8803
ISSN (Online):2051-8811
Published Online:11 March 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Author
First Published:First published in Journal of Professions and Organization 2020
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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