The Quest for Authority and Honor in the American Professions, 1750-1900

Samuel Haber

The Quest for Authority and Honor in the American Professions, 1750-1900
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Samuel Haber

492 pages | 4 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1991
Cloth $65.00 ISBN: 9780226311739 Published August 1991
With the decline in the size of our industrial work force and the rise of the service occupations, the professions today are prominent models for a singular kind of social position. The professions and "professionalism" seem to offer an escape from vexing supervision at work as well as from some of the depersonalization and uncertainty of markets and bureaucracies. In taking account of our hunger for professional status and privileges, Samuel Haber presents the first synthetic history of major professions in America. His account emphasizes the substance of each profession's work experience, told from the vantage point of the doctors, lawyers, ministers, and their emulators whose work gave them a high sense of purpose and a durable sense of community.

Contrary to those who regard the professions as exemplary and up-to-date specimens of social modernization or economic monopoly, Haber argues that they bring both preindustrial and predemocratic ideals and standards into our modern world. He proposes that the values embedded in the professions—authority and honor, fused with duty and responsibility—have their origins in the class position and occupational prescriptions of eighteenth-century English gentlemen. Such an argument has implications for the understanding of American society; it underscores the cumulative and variegated nature of our culture and suggests the drawbacks of trying to describe society as a system. It also accords with Haber's endeavor to write a history that rescues for description and analysis mixed motives, composite conditions, and persons and parties acting upon contradictory explanatory schemes.

Haber traces the cultural evolution of the professions through three stages—establishment (1750-1830), disestablishment (1830-1880), and reestablishment (1880-1900). He shows that when the gentlemanly class declined in the United States, the professions maintained status even in somewhat hostile settings. The professions thus came to be seen as a middle way between the pursuits of laborers and those of capitalists. Massive in scale and ambition, this book will have a formidable impact among scholars newly attuned to the history of American middle-class culture.
List of Illustrations
Part I: The Gentlemanly Professions and the Atlantic Civilization, 1750-1830
Overview of Part I
1. The Ministers and the Moral Purpose of Religion
2. The Doctors' Dilemmas
3. The Rise of the Lawyers
Part II: The Egalitarian Interregnum of the Professions and the Great Valley, 1830-1880
Overview of Part II
4. Memphis: A Southern Exposure on the Professions, 1830-1880
5. Cincinnati: Not Porkopolis but Queen City, 1830-1880
Part III: The Reestablishment of the Professions in a New Social Order, 1880-1900
Overview of Part III
6. The Lawyers: A Stratified Profession
7. The Clergy: A Profession in Adversity
8. The Professors: A Profession in an Academic Bureaucracy
9. The Engineers: A Profession in a Business Bureaucracy
10. The Doctors: A New Model Profession and Its Emulators
Epilogue: Since 1900
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