the assumption of responsibility for the welfare of the world















‘Professional’ at its most basic is simply the adjective form of ‘profession’, and can refer to anything considered a profession. In the broadest sense, it functions as a synonym for ‘vocational’ — anything related to work or a job.

Deriving from this broad sense, ‘professional’ can refer to a particular view of an individual’s responsibility with respect to its employment. Professionalism, in this context, means placing the needs of the job over personal needs or personal preferences. Professional behavior is marked by disinterested performance of work tasks and suppression of biases, particularly in interpersonal interactions.

There is also a sense of ‘profession’ that is significantly narrower than any work or job. In this, a profession involves a particular form of training, always including a college education and sometimes a graduate education, rendering the individual a specialist in a particular field, and the individual becomes a member of the profession not through currently holding a position in that field, but by virtue of the training alone. A profession is an area of expertise, a set of abilities, and the potential to work at a specific kind of position, as well as the collective of all those who have this potential. The paradigmatic professions are physician and lawyer, but the recognized professions also include engineer, dentist, nurse, journalist, pharmacist, programmer, and scientist. The existence of such professions in turn creates an understanding of the sort of people, known as “professionals”, who have such professions. ‘Professional’ then refers to a culture of these professionals, whatever is deemed appropriate to people with this role in society and this level of education; professionals are expected to uphold this culture, its folkways, and its status. Put another way, professionals are a socioeconomic class, and have class interests.

This culture of professions has evolved (or in many ways, failed to evolve) alongside the culture of “business” — whose adherents are historically traders and merchants, but now more often the functionaries in companies engaged in economic activities for whom the products are secondary to the profit motive. These functionaries in middle and upper management, while often lacking specialized training, share an economic status with professionals and are increasingly likely to have a college education, and are thus grouped with the professionals for analytical reasons (hence the neologism ‘professional-managerial class’, or ‘PMC’).

We can see a contrast in these two senses of ‘professional’ with the expression ‘professional dress’. If “professionalism” is dedication to work responsibilities above personal preferences and prejudices, then individuals who interact only with other workers can dress however they like, on the assumption that other workers will interact with them “professionally” — without reference to personal prejudices about how another person is dressed. (A certain form of dress might still be expected from those who interact with the public; making allowance for public prejudices over one’s own dress preferences would be an act of professionalism.) When, instead, a company or workplace culture insists on “professional dress” internally, this is a result of the culture of “professionals”; there is an expectation that well-educated specialists and their business counterparts dress in a certain way (suits and ties for men, suits or modest dresses for women), and that other workers should judge their fellow workers based on their adherence to this “professional” dress code, less seriously but no less legitimately than they are judged based on their adherence to their own profession’s ethical code. (The dress code for the professional and business culture gave rise to the expression ‘white collar’, referring to the most common shirt worn with a business suit, contrasted with ‘blue collar’, from a common color of work shirt or uniform for manual laborers.)



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