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IAS Workshop - Professions, Knowledge Workers and the KBE

Date: 20-21 September 2006


There is widespread agreement over the importance of knowledge based occupations, which are seen to be key components of the emerging knowledge-based economy (KBE). These occupations enable, indeed in an important sense embody, the epochal shift from value being added by capital (in conjunction with physical labour) to knowledge as the principal factor of production of the new economic order. Knowledge workers, thus offer the possibility of innovation through knowledge, through the development of new forms of knowledge and are accordingly attributed a fundamental role in the reorganisation of contemporary economic as well as social and political systems.

And yet a significant number of knowledge occupations, the established professions, such as law and medicine have pre-modern historical origins and have not shown any significant tendency to move away from their traditional patterns of organisation. True, many have argued that this is to their detriment, and there are new kinds of knowledge-based occupation (management consultancy, public relations and advertising, information systems analysis, to name a few) that are not organised as professions, and these occupations set new standards of organisation and efficiency. As such they will pressure traditional professions to abandon their old ways, in favour of new patterns of flexible organisation and self-management. While there are some indications of traditional professions adopting more managed modes of organisation (though the extent of this is hotly debated), research also shows the professions can adapt themselves in remarkable and unexpected ways. In addition, there are some indications that new occupations are, especially in some areas and under some market conditions, adopting professional modes of organisation.

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Organising departments and research centres: Institute for Advanced Studies


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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