Art first sight the point of view expressed by Perkin makes some sense and I suppose that there has been a rise in ‘professionalism’ over the last 100 years. However professional classes are not new, something vaguely acknowledged in the piece, Egyptian society had a powerful and effective professional class for example. That we live in a time of unprecedented wealth seems strong (though many are still in poverty) that there are great advances in the distribution of basic good is also a real factor. However it seems the argument rests on the idea that there is ‘a cause’ for change when in fact it might have been a more robust (bit less interesting) argument if it was a regarded as ‘a factor’. The application of science to the way we live has gone through a complete revolution too, and it is the applied sciences that give us both the unprecedented style of life that we have and leave the possibility of mass destruction hanging over our head, wither as the result of nuclear holocaust or through the throttling of our spaceship earth through the over use of resources. We could also take an educational view where the change has come about because vast swates of the population now have an education that was previous denied them and that this leads toa different way of life in its wake.
The chapter is a child of its times though in a way it cannily almost expects the banking crash of last year. This though is surely an example of personal greed over professionalism as much as professionalism destroying itself. There is a crux here about what we mean by profession, but in banking terms it might include the words ‘prudent’ and ‘honest’ characteristics that were absent within the sector, and the struggles now going on might be seen as a debate about how best to reintroduce professional standards.
The article itself does not really deal with the possible effects of continuous growth and the possibility of 0% growth or even contraction in our attempts to achieve this the professional classes are at the moment unable to provide more than a debate and action is lacking. I would have said offhand this is more the effects of free market forces and the ‘shortermism’ that they produce that are in effect acting as manacles on the professional classes who might be able to resolve the situation.