POWER IN THE HIGHEST DEGREE: Professionals and the Rise of a New Mandarin Order by Charles; William A. Schwartz & Yale Magrass Derber

POWER IN THE HIGHEST DEGREE: Professionals and the Rise of a New Mandarin Order

Email this review


Out of a study of Boston scientists, lawyers, doctors, and engineers comes this briefly provocative critique of professionals as a powerful ""mandarin"" class. Fast-tracked through medical school, law school, etc., professionals have secured their positions alongside capitalists (and above workers) by turning ""modern knowledge into private property,"" argue Derber (Sociology/Boston College), Schwartz (doctoral student in sociology/Boston College), and Magrass (Sociology/Southeastern Mass. Univ.). Riding on the widespread belief in science, this new expert class has emerged as the privileged bearer of objective truth. Questioning expert opinion, the authors contend, seems ""to challenge reason itself."" Today, professionals have forged a comfortable but ""subdominant"" alliance with government and business, maintaining their ""mandarin autonomy and authority over nonprofessionals."" The implications? According to Derber, ""the specter of logocracy"" (a government run by experts) ""now haunts capitalism and socialism alike,"" and professionalism is ""preserving a large class of unskilled workers."" The authors call for the ""uncredentialed majority"" to break down ""property rights in knowledge."" Too quickly this repetitive, jargon-loaded text dissipates into a tract where professionals are ""co-conspirators in management,"" and the client relationship ""involves an element of class exploitation."" The argument's limitations stand out clearly when the authors dredge up as examples of ""prominent mandarins"" McGeorge Bundy and Robert McNamara--who came to power a quarter of a century ago--and look to Mao as a thinker who feared the experts and respected the knowledge of workers and peasants. A roughly drawn study--the latest from the ""Project on Professionals"" (which ended in 1983)--that gives little insight into the questions it raises about the new professional class.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
Publisher: Oxford