Working Paper 2016-02

October 16, 2016 by Sherri Klassen

Overlapping Ecologies: Professions and Development in the Rise of Legal Services in China

Sida Liu, University of Toronto

UT Sociology Working Paper No. 2016-02

July 2016

Keywords: profession, development, ecology, lawyer, China

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The sociology of professions has derived most of its theories from the cases of professions in the Global North. Despite the growing number of empirical studies on professionals in developing countries, the intersection between professions and development has rarely been theorized. This paper uses the case of legal service professionals in China to outline an ecological theory of professions and development. It argues that, in the Global South, professions and development are overlapping ecologies that share some common actors and transform by similar social processes. Professionals serve as agents of development in at least four ways: (1) as facilitators of global institutional diffusion; (2) as delegates of the nation-state; (3) as brokers between global and national market interests; and (4) as activists of local social resistance. In the process of development, the four roles are constantly in conflict and the ecology of professions differentiates through social interactions among professionals performing these conflicting roles in issue areas such as economic growth, access to justice, and human rights.


University of Toronto Sociology Working Paper 2016-02