WORK AND INTEGRITY by William M. Sullivan


The Crisis and Promise of Professionalism in America
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 An academic's murky, meandering, and tedious case for the arguable proposition that America's learned professions should pay more systematic attention to the common weal. While Sullivan (Philosophy and Sociology/LaSalle Univ.; coauthor, Habits of the Heart, 1985) tends to avoid specifying precisely which professions he's talking about at any given time, his bromidic ruminations appear to apply mainly to architects, attorneys, and physicians--i.e., callings that require specialized training in fields of codified knowledge. When it suits the author's relentlessly progressive purposes, however, he does not shrink from including administrators, bankers, the clergy, corporate executives, educators, journalists, social scientists, and other high-profile targets in the ranks of those whose shortcomings have, in his view, undermined the public's faith in expert elites. Sullivan tracks the development of a professional class in the egalitarian US from colonial times to today when, he charges, careerism has not only devalued vocational ethics but also made practitioners derelict in their duty to serve the public. He offers constant reminders of the unfulfilled pro bono obligations he believes professionals must undertake in light of the challenges that an increasingly interdependent global society poses for genuinely democratic capitalism. Having taken the professions to task, the author calls on them to engage in thoroughgoing renewal programs that could enhance their accountability and responsibility to communities broader than peer groups. In doing so, unfortunately, he eschews even a modicum of anecdotal evidence in favor of drab critiques or restatements of perspectives borrowed from his intellectual betters: Derek Bok (The Price of Talent); Barbara Ehrenreich (Fear of Falling); and William H. Whyte Jr. (The Organization Man), among others. Sullivan also exhibits an irksome penchant for loosely defined terms, from ``civic virtue'' to ``existential cooperation.'' A do-better lecture from an ivory-tower tenant, marred his inability to analyze, let alone explain, the ideals he professes and the institutions he challenges.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-88730-727-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1994