Professional Judgment and Legitimacy Work in an Organizationally Embedded Profession

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Professions have been traditionally understood as an alternative way of organizing work that stands in opposition to the corporate or bureaucratic organizational form. Increasingly, however, corporations are seen to be the source of new forms of expert knowledge and occupational categories. Yet we have little understanding of how expert judgement forms and is legitimated inside a large organization. In this study, we examine the emergence of standards of professional judgement in a government organization. Using archival and interview data between 2000 and 2012 we examine how experts in the Danish Film Institute generated professional standards of decision making against the backdrop of intense bureaucratic control. Our analysis demonstrates that norms of professional judgement emerge in a process that is inextricably linked to the emergence of professional role identities. Our core theoretical contribution is the discovery that the legitimacy work of managerial professions operates in two spheres; by first grounding claims of professional legitimacy in broad societal norms, and second, by grounding claims of professional identity in localized but increasingly abstract expressions of professional expertise.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Professions and Organization
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)105–127
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Professions
  • Organizations
  • Professional judgment
  • Legitimacy work

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