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Professionalism in the Modern World

Nature volume 142, page 712 (15 October 1938) | Download Citation



IN a highly suggestive paper on “Professionalism” read before Section F (Economic Science and Statistics) at Cambridge on August 19, Mr. T. H. Marshall reviewed the development of the professions and discussed their place and inference in society to-day. According to Herbert Spencer, the history of the professions can be traced back to primitive societies. From the first they were non-manual, and Mr. Marshall pointed out that their second characteristic was that they were not commercial, an ethical distinction clearly stated by the Greeks. Payment must not be the motive in professional work. The third characteristic of professionalism, the association, follows from the first two. It serves to maintain the power of brain-work to command the produce of manual labour, and it ensures that men, who must not work in order to be paid, are nevertheless paid enough to support them at the right social level. The official aim of a professional association is the preservation of a high standard of efficiency among its members. This is achieved by training and examining all candidates for admission and by obtaining privileges as against all non-members, which may amount to a legal monopoly. Such rights can only be claimed where the profession is based on a body of special knowledge or on a scientific technique which can be imparted in training colleges and tested by examinations. The typical professional association is a body that controls the application of science to the service of society.

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