Sub-theme 19: After the Crisis (?): Towards a New Politics of Professionalism under Pressure ---> CANCELLED!

Martijn Felder
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Iris Wallenburg
Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Justin Waring
University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

The last decade has witnessed unprecedented changes in the organisation and governance of expert work. Technological change (social media, artificial intelligence, etc.), new and diverse forms of knowledge (especially more contested knowledge and ‘post-truth’), changing economic and political pressures (austerity measures, variable funding), changing client relations (more demanding expectations and decline in trust), and persistent scandals about professional performance and wrong doing not only put professionals under pressure, but also transform professionalism as a social and lived phenomenon (Felder et al., 2022; Hope et al., 2022; Waring & Bishop, 2020).
The pandemic has hyper-intensified these pressures. It has resulted in new opportunities for and constraints on professionalism, like new forms of inter-professional work, a shift towards more directive state control, and simultaneously a heightened trust in public service professionals (Mohammed et al., 2021). Yet it has also further politicised and responsibilised the role and position of professionals in society (Travaglia & Robertson, 2021). Professionals, especially in the health and welfare sectors, played a significant role in the rapidly shifting modes of population governance through shaping the ‘science’ of governing and calling citizens ‘to obey the pandemic rules’ like social distancing and getting vaccinated. Also,  managers, physicians and nurses were at the forefront of making decisions about how to allocate scarce medical equipment and resources as most governments shied away from ‘life and dead decisions’ – creating an implicit and precarious system of micro-politics at the bedside (Foucault, 1975; Espina & Narruhn, 2021; Kuijper et al., 2022).
Whereas the pandemic is considered a specific space-time for (very) difficult decisions and, in many instances, suboptimal service delivery, the current ‘after crisis’ period confronts policy makers, organizations, and professionals alike with ongoing challenges and arduous decision making. Economic uncertainty, the resurgence of nationalism and popularism, and growing concerns about new risks – e.g. shortages of material resources and staff, energy prices – are shaping a new politics of professionalism (Bishop & Waring, 2019; Bishop et al., 2022; Felder et al., 2022; Wallenburg et al., 2019). In responding to these uncertainties and risks, policy makers, professionals, organizations and service users are becoming increasingly inter-dependent to organise public services in yet unknown ways, rethinking taken for-granted and institutionalised quality and access standards along the way. These undeniably occurring, yet still hardly visible transitions at the crossroads of policy, organizational and professional domains urge researchers in the field of Organizational Studies and Professions to scrutinise and theorise how new interdependencies are created, and with what consequences for both professionals and receivers of public and private services (Butler & Spivak, 2007).
In this sub-theme we take an eco-systems approach to studying shifting state-organization-profession-user (inter)dependencies and their consequences on policy, organization and practice levels. We seek to contribute to the reinvention of professionalism as an increasingly political and economic endeavour, discussing (amongst others) the micro-political practices of priority setting, data-driven surveillance and modelling, economic rationing and repair work, as well as the (conflicting) valuations and accountability regimes these involve. At the same time, we acknowledge that the micro-political dynamics of organising professional work are both constitutive of and framed by wider institutional, ideological and macro-political rationalities.
We invite contributions that address the following themes and questions, but we are also interested in related contributions exploring a new politics of professionalism under pressure:

  • What new risks and uncertainties in the organization of expert work and the provision of health and welfare services are emerging in the ‘after-crisis’, and how do they exacerbate and/or create new pressures on professionals and professionalism?

  • What new (inter)dependencies emerge between state-level actors, organizations, professionals, and service users in times of uncertainty, scarcity and austerity and with what kinds of precariousness?

  • Technological innovations and new forms of knowledge create new possibilities, affordances, and challenges. How do professionals and organizations signal and respond to these developments, and how do they shape professionalism as a social and lived phenomenon?

  • How can this emerging set of questions around the micro, meso and macro politics and practices of professionalism be theorized as ‘professionalism under pressure’ in times of uncertainty and precariousness?


  • Bishop, S., & Waring, J. (2019): “From boundary object to boundary subject; the role of the patient in coordination across complex systems of care during hospital discharge.” Social Science & Medicine, 235,
  • Waring, J., Bishop, S., Black, G., Clarke, J.M., Exworthy, M., Fulop, N.J., Harley, J., Ramsay, A., & Roe, B. (2022): “Understanding the Political Skills and Behaviours for Leading the Implementation of Health Services Change: A Qualitative Interview Study.” International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 11 (11), 2686–2697.
  • Butler, J., & Spivak, G.C. (2007): Who Sings the Nation-State? Language, Politics, Belonging. London: Seagull Books.
  • Espina, C.R., & Narruhn, R.A. (2021): “‘I Can't Breathe’: Biopower in the Time of COVID-19: An Exploration of How Biopower Manifests in the Dual Pandemics of COVID and Racism.” Advances in Nursing Science, 44 (3), 183–194.
  • Felder, M., Kuijper, S., Lalleman, P., Bal, R., & Wallenburg, I. (2022): “The rise of the partisan nurse and the challenge of moving beyond an impasse in the (re)organization of Dutch nursing work.” Journal of Professions and Organization, 9 (1), 20–37.
  • Foucault, M. (1975): The Birth of the Clinic. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Hope, J., Schoonhoven, L., Griffiths, P., Gould, L., & Bridges, J. (2022): “‘I'll put up with things for a long time before I need to call anybody’: Face work, the Total Institution and the perpetuation of care inequalities.” Sociology of Health & Illness, 44 (2), 469–487.
  • Kuijper, S., Felder, M., Bal, R., & Wallenburg, I. (2022): “Assembling care: How nurses organise care in uncharted territory and in times of pandemic.” Sociology of Health & Illness, 44 (8), 1305–1323.
  • Mohammed, S., Peter, E., Killackey, T., & Maciver, J. (2021): “The “nurse as hero” discourse in the COVID-19 pandemic: A poststructural discourse analysis.” International Journal of Nursing Studies, 117 (5),
  • Travaglia, J., & Robertson, H. (2021): “The Politics of Life and Death in the Time of COVID-19.” In J. Waring, J.L. Denis, A.R. Pedersen & T. Tenbensel (eds.): Organising Care in a Time of Covid-19. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 275–296.
  • Wallenburg, I., Weggelaar, A.M., & Bal, R. (2019): “Walking the tightrope: how rebels ‘do’ quality of care in healthcare organizations.” Journal of Health Organization and Management, 33 (7/8), 869–883.
  • Waring, J., & Bishop, S. (2020): “Health States of Exception: unsafe non‐care and the (inadvertent) production of ‘bare life’ in complex care transitions.” Sociology of Health & Illness, 42 (1), 171–190.
Martijn Felder is Assistant Professor at Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. He has strong interests in social theory and different conceptions of healthcare, politics and practice. Currently, Martijn is studying the (re)organization of Dutch nursing and its consequences for everyday healthcare provision. He has published in academic journals such as ‘Sociology of Health & Illness’, ‘Journal of Professions & Organization’, ‘Antipode,’ and ‘Health Policy’.
Iris Wallenburg is Associate Professor of Care & Labor in Digitalizing Societies at Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Combining insights from Science & Technology Studies, Health Policy and Organization Studies, she studies how digital technologies interfere with ways of governing, organizing and delivering healthcare, and with what consequences ‘at the bedside’ (including people’s homes). She is an expert in action research whilst theorizing new ways of caring. Iris he has published widely in academic journals, including ‘Sociology of Health & Illness’, ‘Public Administration’, ‘Journal of Professions & Organization’, ‘BMJ Quality & Safety’, among others.
Justin Waring is Professor of Medical Sociology and Healthcare Organisation at the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. His research examines the changing organisation and governance of healthcare services with a particular focus on the management of professional work, cultures and identities. Justin has held appointments at Nottingham University Business School and Warwick Business School and is currently Visit Professor at University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Director of Research and Fellow at The Healthcare Improvement Studies (THIS) Institute, University of Cambridge.