Professions and institutional change: Towards an institutionalist sociology of the professions

Daniel Muzio, David M. Brock, Roy Suddaby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beginning with this article, our special issue advances the understanding of the role of professions in processes of institutional change and through this it proposes a retheorization of contemporary professionalism. Using institutionalist lenses in professional settings, we highlight the relationship between professionalization and broader institutionalization projects. We start by critically reviewing existing approaches in the sociology of the professions, identifying a functionalist and a conflict-based approach. Then, we build on and further elaborate an institutionalist perspective on professional work. Such a perspective affirms the importance of studying professions as institutions and connecting professionalization to broader patterns of institutionalization; it highlights the role of professions and professionals as agents in the creation, maintenance, and disruption of institutions, and recognizes the importance of accommodating contemporary patterns of professionalization within the organizational context. We also illustrate how, empirically, the eight papers in this issue advance our understanding of professional agency in contemporary change and, theoretically, contribute to the reconceptualization of the study of professionalism. Finally, we briefly summarize our contribution and identify a series of directions for further research. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Society for the Advancement of Management Studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-721
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • Institutional work
  • Neo-institutional theory
  • Professional services firms
  • Sociology of the professions


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