Professional Men, Professional Women: The European Professions from the 19th Century until Today

By Sefora, Sharonrose | Journal of International Women's Studies, July-August 2012 | Go to article overview

Professional Men, Professional Women: The European Professions from the 19th Century until Today


Sefora, Sharonrose, Journal of International Women's Studies


Professional Men, Professional Women: The European Professions from the 19th Century until Today 2011. Maria Malatesta. SAGE Studies in International Sociology. 188 pages. Hardcover ($94.00). ISBN 978-1-84860-625-8

Maria Malatesta's Professional Men, Professional Women, is an extensive overview of the history of professions in Europe from the "ancient regime to the formation of the European Union and thereafter" (pl). This historical study uses sociological concepts similar to those of Michael Burrage (2006) and Liora Israel (2005). The book visits 'liberal' professions (Law, Medicine, and Engineering) in Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany from the French Revolution to 2006.

The book begins with an introduction of the European professions between crisis and transformation, this chapter takes the reader into an overview of the origins of the four professions, the reconstructing of processes and changes they went through in the last two centuries. Malatesta highlights the professions' responses to external agents namely, the state, social movements, economic crises and wars. The book rejects theories of professionalization and is inspired by Bourdieu, a French sociologist; it however draws on theories on the decline of professions, sociology of crisis and the professions' relationship with the fascist and authoritarian regimes.

Chapter 1 of Professional Men, Professional Women, is dedicated to the Legal profession. The reader is firstly introduced to Law where the legal field is defined from Bourdieu (1992), as a national space where the actors operate in it, the relationships and society give it its attributes. The author argues that the legal field lost its importance after the Second World War due to political change. "The advent of mass political parties overwhelmed the old notability system and relegated jurists to below other social groups" (Cotta et al., 2000:232,251). Malatesta notes that the judiciary held great prestige in the Europe while in Germany, public administration held the power. However, in Great Britain, it was different; the judiciary held its power and unconditional trust of its citizens. In France, judges pursued a single career just as in Italy. The chapter outlines the history of notaries, the forensic kaleidoscope and details regarding bar autonomy and state regulation in the four countries (Great Britain, Italy, Germany and France). It is interesting to note that whether the state had a strong presence or not, it did not 'entail a less autonomy of the legal profession, as seen by the French and Italian bars' (p24).

Doctors are discussed in chapter 2. In Great Britain, the less protected doctors changed medicine by virtue of their organisational capacities, unlike in the rest of Europe where change was initiated by the state. These less-protected doctors (in Britain) initiated change due to a need for status, legitimisation of their occupation and need for recognition. Medicine in Great Britain was divided among three professions; doctors, surgeons and pharmacists. The author notes that the different professions under medicine, all possessed individual licences to practice. Physicians gained superiority and maintained it for more than two and half centuries (p40). Unlike today where to become a doctor, years of attendance at a university is necessary, in the 'Ancient Regime' it took two years, whilst an apprenticeship sufficed for entry to other healthcare professions. The reader is taken further into an examination of the rise of the General Practitioner. Interestingly, the term "general practitioner", became common after 1815, to denote a pharmacist who also practiced medicine and surgery.

In the 19th century Italian medicine had an ancient university tradition but unfortunately it fell short of the most advanced European standards. In the first health law of the Kingdom of Italy in 1865, an obligation was stated to obtain a university entrance to be able to practice.

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