How ‘we’ are different from ‘them’: occupational boundary maintenance in the treatment of musculo-skeletal problems

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Abstract

Strategies of occupational control at the macro-level have been described by many sociologists. This paper draws on a study of the division of labour in the treatment of musculo-skeletal problems in New Zealand to look at micro-level strategies of occupational control. These are rhetorical strategies used by individual practitioners to establish and maintain occupational boundaries. Practitioners used these strategies to distinguish their occupation from others, creating a sense of professional identity and enabling claims to jurisdiction over an area of work. Many of these strategies involved notions of limitation (i.e. other occupations are limited because they do not possess something we do), holism (we are holistic in our approach while others are not), and prevention (we prevent problems by treating the causes, while others treat the symptoms).

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