by liberal japonicus
The title is from Hunter Thompson, chosen because Dr. Science's recent post struck me in a bit of an oblique way, in that temps were raised because the doctor made the argument that some might summarize (mistakenly, I think) as "editors are no longer professional". The title is not to suggest that professional editors are weird, but to suggest that one of the flash points here is a notion of professionalism, a notion that seems to have gotten a bit, well, weird.
It wasn't that long ago that society looked disdainfully on 'professionals'. The NCAA is still trying to keep that boat afloat. Busloads of armchair philologists have pointed out the origin of the word 'amateur' as someone doing something for love rather than money and wondering why the word has such a disdainful, not ready for prime-time connotation. Still, you don't want to tell someone the DIY work they did looks 'amateur', or some painting at a friend's house really looks like it was done by an amateur.
And professionalism is now a word, and a quality, that seems to brook no notion that anything its opposite is worthwhile, except in matters of the heart, which is why one doesn't hear how someone's lovemaking was quite professional. But the discussion here so far has me wondering about changes in our notions of professionalism.
In a comment to one of the doctor's post, I drew the parallel between editors, who are having to do a lot more work with fewer people and a lot less support, with teachers, who are having to do a lot more work with fewer people and a lot less support. Another example might be the military, such that people on the left have to figure out a way to criticize our conflict du jour, but not express any disdain for the 'professionalism' of our military and I am hard pressed to think of a field where the goal is to provide more and better services for less money. This is not to say that individual practitioners in various fields aren't, but that is my impression of the overall trends.
Part of Dr. Science's posts, though not explicitly stated, is that changes in technology and society are creating changes in the publishing industry. But thinking about professionalism, it seems that a push for the best possible bottom line are creating a situation where being a professional is not really worth the effort in any field where there is money to be made. If your middle of the line publisher lets go 90% of the proofreading and editing staff and then sticks it to the 10% to make up the difference, being a professional editor might, under some circumstances, demand that you join the rest leaving the building, but I can easily see that some (especially in upper management) would argue that a professional attitude dictates that you do your best to get the job finished, and quit yer whining. I'm wondering how a campaign premised on the phrase "I wanted to be a professional, so I joined the union" would go over. For an old fogey lefty like me, it might be 'damn right, being a professional means getting a living wage for what you do!" But I have a sinking suspicion it would backfire and people will be complaining about people joining the union because they want their wage for the purpose of getting granite countertops.
All this seems to translate out to a society wide phenomenon where professionalism, while based on the fact that someone gets paid for doing something, now demands that you are not getting paid too much. Put in a different way, when you don't want as much money as you can possibly get for doing the minimum amount of work to get it, you are professional. When you want to do more work than your bosses actually require, you are being professional. And when you care about the product you produce more than your bosses care about the bottom line, you are being professional.
In the near future, it seems that professional will be reserved for those who undertake some work on the condition that they receive only enough payment to keep body and soul together and not a penny more. 'That one is a true professional', they will sniff, because they will worry about it's versus its, or feel it is important to have all the words in a book spelled correctly, or have an index that refers to the correct pages and will work to overtime to make sure it is right. Welcome to the future.