Professional claims to authority: a comparative study of Danish doctors and teachers (1950-2010)

Gitte Sommer Harrits, Lars Thorup Larsen

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftsartikelForskningpeer review


It is often argued or taken for granted that professionals have lost their position of authority in relation to citizens, either because of individualization or because they are controlled by state interventions. The sociology of knowledge conversely points to a new reflexive modernization where our dependence upon expertise increases rather than decreases. Whether professions are stable or in decline, we lack an understanding of how they claim authority and build professional ‘projects’ to counter perceived threats. This article maps authority claims made by the professional organizations
of Danish doctors and teachers, over a 60-year period. The data for this interpretive study comprise editorials from the leading professional journals of teachers and doctors in Denmark between 1950 and 2010 (650 editorials in total), which were systematically coded, analyzed, and compared. The analyses reveal stable patterns of authority claims. We show that both professions increasingly identify their authority with the popular welfare state organizations in which they work.
TidsskriftJournal of Professions and Organization
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)154-169
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - 2016
Udgivet eksterntJa


  • Uddannelse, professioner og erhverv