Key metaphors in the sociology of professions: Occupations as hierarchies and landscapes
Dept of Social Work University of Gothenburg Gothenburg, Sweden
In some parts of the literature on the study of discourse, the advice given is to look for ?key metaphors? in a given set of text or talk. Key metaphors guide our way of thinking; amongst other things, they provide perspective, relations, directions, distances, causality, features and principles. In other words, metaphors provide tools for understanding parts of reality. If this advice is followed, it would appear, when reading the literature on professions, that it is possible to discover at least two overarching key metaphors: one that portrays professional groups as a hierarchy, and one that describes them as a landscape. As key metaphors in general guide our understanding, it is important to reflect on what metaphors do in fact to our perceptions of professions. What, for example, do they highlight, and what do they conceal? The paper provides an analysis of two key metaphors in the literature of professions. The purpose is to outline and analyze these metaphors and to relate them to a number of other central concepts. In carrying out this analysis, questions concerning the similarities and differences between the two metaphors will be addressed. What, for example, are their epistemic virtues and what are the consequences of choosing one metaphor over the other?