The concept of normative professionalism arose in the 1990s in the University of Humanistic Studies and among professional counsellors and researchers from the social sector, as a way of counterbalancing the dominant technical and instrumental attitudes to professionalization. Since then, the issues brought to light through the normative professionalism concept have received general recognition, in particular in the care, education and social sectors.
This area presents important opportunities and challenges for humanistics, with its long history of both conceptual and practical attention to these issues. Against this background this research project has three central objectives:
- To develop practical guidelines and methods for professionals to deal more satisfactorily with the normative aspects of their professional conduct, and all related questions and dilemmas;
- To deliver up-to-date contributions to the academic and public debate about current issues surrounding normative professionalism and normative professionalization, both nationally and internationally;
- To clarify the links between the humanist principles of meanings of life and humanization from the normative professionalization perspective and – as an extension – to help update the substance of humanism, both conceptually and in terms of humanist-inspired professional conduct.
The normative professionalism concept is treated as descriptive in the context of this project. As a critical way of augmenting the attitudes to professionalism that focus on professionals’ knowledge base and technical and methodological expertise, this concept is deployed to shed light on the normative content of professionals’ conduct. The theory creation and research of recent decades have identified three clusters of standards and values that help determine professionals’ conduct, in particular in human-oriented professions.
The first is concerned with the normative effect of legal and economic frameworks and with all sector-specific legislation and regulations in which they are enshrined, including the normative pressure arising from competition. Roughly speaking, this involves the normative effect of the state and the market, and the underlying political perspectives and ideologies.
The second is concerned with the standards, values, virtues and attitudes that are linked with the specific roles of professionals and with the social domains and organizations in which they are embedded, such as caring, teaching, supervising, administering justice, maintaining order, guarding, coaching and managing, including the cultural and worldview traditions involved in the specific interpretation of these professional roles and the changes that are occurring in them.
The third is concerned with the standards and values that are rooted in professionals’ own ‘life world’ and the associated implicit judgments and prejudices in dimensions such as ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class and age, and the personal assimilation and focus in the context of professionals’ personal life stories.
Based on research in recent decades, these three normative clusters of professional conduct are taken as a starting point in this project for further development and in-depth study. Against this background the research in this project will proceed along four lines: (1) empirical research into normative professionalization processes; (2) methodological and organizational embedding; (3) philosophy of science and methodological questions; and (4) the relationship between humanistics, humanism and normative professionalization.