The Professional Conspiracy

From George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma: Preface on Doctors:

But the effect of this state of things is to make the medical profession a conspiracy to hide its own shortcomings. No doubt the same may be said of all professions. They are all conspiracies against the laity; and I do not suggest that the medical conspiracy is either better or worse than the military conspiracy, the legal conspiracy, the sacerdotal conspiracy, the pedagogic conspiracy, the royal and aristocratic conspiracy, the literary and artistic conspiracy, and the innumerable industrial, commercial, and financial conspiracies, from the trade unions to the great exchanges, which make up the huge conflict which we call society.

Professionals underestimate the power relationships involved in their practices, where their superior knowledge relative to clients leaves clients beholden to the practitioner’s power; the power to protect them from forces beyond their immediate control: disease, the law, God, nature, and the marketplace.  Specialized knowledge makes for insular, self-policing communities, and the professional’s work can feel to clients, who are paying astronomical fees, like state-sanctioned extortion.

However, competition in the marketplace and increasingly sophisticated customers are breaking down many of the walls between professionals and clients.  The best are adapting by explaining their work and guiding clients through their decision making process, but the the career also attracts those insecure in their own capabilities, and for whom the ability to feel superior to clients is one of the perks.

The exerpts posted by Paul Levy are great for doctors, as well as other professionals, even if you don’t bother to read the full essay (I haven’t).

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