Alternative futures: Fields, boundaries, and divergent professionalisation strategies within the Chiropractic profession
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Social Science and Medicine, 2017, 190 pp. 83 - 91
- Issue Date:
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© 2017 Elsevier Ltd Sociological studies of the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) occupations have documented the professionalisation strategies these groups use to establish boundaries between themselves and their competitors, including seeking educational accreditation and statutory regulation/licensure. Chiropractic has been particularly successful at professionalising and in Australia and the UK it is taught within public universities. Recent events have threatened chiropractic's university foothold, however, showing that professionalisation needs to be understood as an ongoing process of negotiation. Based on interviews with chiropractors in Australia and the UK, this paper examines the professionalisation strategies deployed by chiropractors within and outside of the university. Highly divergent strategies are identified across different sectors of the profession, relating to defining the chiropractic paradigm, directing education and constructing professional identity. In each domain, chiropractic academics tended to prioritise building the evidence base and becoming more aligned with medicine and other allied health professions. Although some practitioners supported this agenda, others strove to preserve chiropractic's vitalistic philosophy and professional distinction. Following Bourdieu, these intra-professional struggles are interpreted as occurring within a field in which chiropractors compete for different forms of capital, pulled by two opposing poles. The differing orientations and strategies pursued at the two poles of the field point to a number of possible futures for this CAM profession, including a potential split within the profession itself.
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