This study sought to determine the way in which educated, salaried, white collar workers respond to their conditions of work in large bureaucratic organizations and attempts to analyze the political and cultural coherence of that response. As representatives of the growing ranks of white collar service workers, nurses might display a unified force for substantial social change (class consciousness), as was expected at one time from American industrial workers.
Such an investigation emerged within the debate on how to characterize these workers objectively. They are often casually referred to as professionals since segments of white collar workers are so classified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. An analytic problem arises, however, as many social scientists argue such workers do not fit the accepted definition of professional: workers generally distinguished by their privilege and autonomy, derived from lengthy training and expertise ( Hughes, 1958).
Many theorists have argued that contemporary professional workers no longer have the privilege and autonomy of their predecessors. That is, professionals in the past were characterized as independent entrepreneurs, able to deliver their services directly to their clients, with no intermediary. Today, however, most educated, white collar workers are salaried, and they are employed by large, bureaucratic organizations, which subjects, them to the authority and management of others. Many social scientists therefore argue that such workers are "proletarianized" as bureaucratic structures engender an increased division of labor, fragmenting their work into narrow specialization, and subordination to a centralized hierarchical authority. Edwards ( 1979), for example, argued that white collar workers are subject to an invisible form of bureaucratic control, in which management governs their work, supervision, and promotion through detailed written rules and policies, thus depriving them of autonomy. O'Connor ( 1973) and Oppenheimer ( 1975) hold that such workers who are employed in the public sector (e.g., education, medicine, and social services) are particularly vulnerable