P2P Foundation

The Foundation for Peer to Peer Alternatives

New Book: Restoring professional pride against the neoliberal assault

A book from our member Thijs Jansen:

English Summary of Professional Pride: An Unsuspected Force

When you take pride in your work, you are justifiably content with your work, because it is important and significant, because it is of a high quality and because it has been performed expertly and honourably. Working with a sense of professional pride means that you value the purpose and content of your job openly and self-consciously and that others also rate your work. Through their provision of appreciation, space and trust, others recognize your positive sense of your own work. This appreciation is highly stimulating.
This volume deals with professional pride in the Dutch (semi-)public sector and with the way professionals, administrators, managers, citizens and government institutions can best act, work, govern and regulate to allow professional pride to thrive and to guarantee the quality of professional work. There is a growing sense of professional pride in the Netherlands, for instance among teachers and police officers. This is a positive development that needs to be supported as much as possible. Yet, at present this support is inadequate. The question we are trying to answer in this volume is whether a consistent and practical mode of thought can be developed that can underpin the cautious emergence of professional pride, that can unlock its “unsuspected force” and guide it into the right direction. This volume contains building blocks for such an “administrative philosophy” consisting not only of practical lessons drawn from everyday professional experience, but also of theoretical insights developed by scholars both nationally and internationally.

In the concluding remarks we describe a new administrative philosophy in broad outline that is in keeping with the recent move towards professional pride and provides a coherent approach that can bring about practical results. This outline is based on the accumulated insights drawn from the preceding contributions. The pursuit of self-respect that is manifest in the concerns of professionals in the (semi-)public sector will provide the point of departure for our neo-republican administrative philosophy. We attach both positive and negative conclusions to this. Our argument boils down to a renunciation of the notion that the professional is primarily a self-interested, calculating actor. We have to abandon the illusion that he, or she, can be directed with the use of targets or other quantifiable measures. Also, there should be an end to the atmosphere of suspicion and distrust that still determines the attitude towards professionals.
On a more positive note we argue for the management of professionals to be based on argument, debate and dialogue. There are good reasons for this, because professional reality is not informed by one unified value, but by a number of conflicting values and ambitions. In order to provide an elementary organization, we have distinguished between technical-professional, legal, commercial and humane values. What needs to be avoided is a situation where only one of these four values holds sway. What we need to strive for, by contrast, is a system of “checks and balances” which (depending on the concrete situation) gives rise to a certain balance between the four values. The search for this balance takes place at three different levels. It is a task for the individual professional (micro-level), it is something that occurs within the organization (mid-level) and it is something that should happen within society as a whole (macro-level).
We, subsequently, point out that the search for such a multiple balance does presuppose a number of things. At the level of the individual professional it is necessary that he, or she, has the right training and the requisite amount of practice. Handling divergent values should be an integral part of every vocational programme. Additionally, there should be adequate space for people’s individual conscience to make sure that the professional who chooses a certain approach in good faith will not end up being called back for commercial or political reasons. For the design of the intended balance within the organization we envisage a special role for managers. It is their specific task to mediate between the forces outside of the organisation and the forces within, and to shape the process of debate and dialogue with which professionals pursue a balance between diverging values. Moreover, managers can set a specific course which will create a distinct profile vis-à-vis other organisations with a characteristic mix of values. For the aspiration to create checks and balances at the level of society as a whole we see a leading role for the professional organisations. The dynamics of professional life, we believe, has made it impossible for the state to exercise control over the quality and efficiency of professional work. At the same time, however, we have to admit that there are too few professional organisations in the Netherlands at the moment to live up to this aspiration.
Thus we formulate a neo-republican philosophy characterized by responsibility and self-respect, by debate and dialogue, by values and principles, and by self-restraint and citizenship. This approach is suggested primarily by the problems and ambitions that we encountered in the public sector, but it is also an approach that dovetails with Western-European culture in general, and Dutch culture in particular, with its deeply ingrained Rhineland values.

This book, Professional Pride: An Unsuspected Force, was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Ien Dales chair Foundation and the Albeda chair Foundation. We thank them for the financial and logistical support of this project. In addition, the Tilburg School of Politics and Public Administration of the University of Tilburg has provided a stimulating intellectual environment for the creation of this book.

Thijs Jansen, Gabriël van den Brink and Jos Kole

Information about the Editors

Thijs Jansen was trained in literary theory (Utrecht University). He is founder and board member of the foundation Beroepseer (www.beroepseer.nl). The central question that this foundation has been trying to push unto the social and political agenda since 2006 is: How can we regain professional pride and with that improve the quality of our work? This initiative was inspired on the book BeroepsZeer, waarom Nederland niet goed werkt. This successful book on professional discontent was edited by Jansen together with Gabriël van den Brink and Dorien Pessers and appeared June 2005 (Boom Publishers, four editions). Jansen works for the School of Politics and Public Administration of the University of Tilburg. He has edited many books on burning political and social questions in recent years. Among other titles he co-edited Even geen Den Haag Vandaag ― Naar een Nederlandse civiele journalistiek (Sdu, The Hague 2001) on civic journalism together with Nico Drok; he co-edited Zonder geloof geen democratie (Boom Publishers, Amsterdam 2006) about faith and democratic politics together with Erik Borgman and Gabriël van den Brink; and he co-edited Burgers and barbaren. Over oorlog tussen recht en macht (Boom Publishers, Amsterdam 2007) on armed conflict and international law together with Janne Nijman and Jan Willem Sap.

Gabriël van den Brink was educated as a philosopher but he switched to historical research. His main subject is the process of modernization. After finishing his dissertation in 1995 he concentrated on problems of Dutch society. He published more than 15 books about different aspects of Dutch social life. Titles are among others: Mondiger of moeilijker. Een studie naar politieke habitus van hedendaagse burgers (2002), Schets van een beschavingsoffensief. Over normen, normaliteit en normalisatie in Nederland (2004), Culturele contrasten. Het verhaal van de migranten in Rotterdam (2006) and Moderniteit als opgave. Een antwoord aan relativisme en conservatisme (2007). In 2006 he was appointed as a full professor in Social Administration at the University of Tilburg. In addition to this function, he is lecturer in Social Safety Studies at the Dutch Police Academy.

Jos Kole holds a doctorate in ethics and is specialized in (academic) research into professional ethics and the provision of ethical advice to professional associations. Until recently he participated as a postdoctoral researcher in the NWO project in Ethics, Research & Public Policy, The Good Professional, at the Free University Amsterdam, Faculty of Psychology and Education. Among his publications in professional ethics are, among other titles: Werkzame idealen. Ethische reflecties op professionaliteit (Van Gorcum, Assen 2007) en Code en karaker. Beroepsethiek in onderwijs, jeugdzorg en recht. (SWP, Amsterdam 2009). Both books were co-edited with Doret de Ruyter.

Structure of the Book

This book consists of a number of sections, each of which is devoted to research into the different conditions that are necessary for professionals to gain professional pride and honour in the semi-public sector. The book is organized tentatively and organically around factors that can contribute to the promotion of professional pride for the benefit of the preservation and advancement of the quality of public services.
The section “Persistent Commitment” deals with stamina and long-term involvement. These are character traits that fit with people who work with a sense of professional pride. They are all connected with time and the passage of time, often a scarce commodity in the workplace, but essential for the development of a full-blown professionalism that leads to meaningful and efficient work.
The section “Space for Action” combines contributions that deal with the freedom and space that a professional has and needs in the semi-public sector. There is a big, ongoing debate on the question whether professionals in the semi-public sector still get around to performing their real tasks with all the rules, regulations, forms and administrative burdens. What does the reduction of professional space consist of? What are the causes? Is there something that can be done about it?
In the section “Courage and Voice” the discussion is about how professionals can stand up for the quality of their work. After all, people who have a sense of professional pride will not shirk from giving their opinion on what constitutes good work.
The section “Value-Driven Leadership” contains contributions that deal, one way or another, with the question how administrators and managers can better recognize, respect and cultivate professional pride and honour.
In the section “Looking for New Ways” the overarching theme is the willingness of professionals to consider continuous innovation and the exploration of new ways as part of their professional duties. Professionals should also consider it their responsibility to come up with smart solutions. The examples in this book show that professionals and their organisations are capable of combining efficiency and meaningfulness in their work.
In “Proud Civil Servants” the central topic is the importance of good government services and good civil servants.
Finally the editors unfold their own neo-Republican administrative philosophy (New Republican Management) which is an alternative for the philosophy of New Public Management.

International Contributions

Beside Dutch contributions this collection contains several original contributions from prominent international scholars: An interview with the sociologist Richard Sennett,
(London School of Economics); an interview with the public administration scientist Christopher Pollitt (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven); an overview of the GoodWork® Project by its originators Howard Gardner (Harvard University), Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Peter Drucker Graduate School of Management, Claremont Graduate University, California) and William Damon (Stanford University, California); an article by the economist Bruno Frey and Margit Osterloh (Institute for Empirical Research in Economics CREMA – Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts, Zurich).

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