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February 27, 2008

The Personal Consequences of Professionalisation (or…how to save money on contact lenses)

I am a Management student in Warwick Business School. One of the topics in the Organisational Behaviour 2 (OB2) and Critical Issues in Management (CIM) modules is professionalisation and its consequences.  Essentially, professional qualifications and professionalism hold great sway in societies, particularly in advanced Western society. Put simply, you can't practice medicine, law, accountancy without a university degree and (minimum!!!) three years of exams that you have to pay to do and study for while you are working (that's just accountancy).

Crucially, we are not officially 'ill' until we have seen a doctor and we can't assess our own dental health without seeing a dentist or dental hygienist etc. etc. I say crucially because this is the bit where professionalisation creeps into our everyday life. Remember, we are 'pulling a sickie' unless we provide a doctors' note. Some University departments enforce this more strictly than others.

There are plenty of 'boring' and 'long' journal articles you can read about this (that you would have to for a seminar in CIM). A reasonable start is Michael Power and his idea of the Audit Society.

I think a better start is Kant.

Immanuel Kant is frequently lambasted as the most impractical philosopher there is (it seems like that to me). Many philosophy students who study him. The main problem is that we study him out of context - and that's an issue that NEARLY EVERYONE who comments on ALL KINDS OF PHILOSOPHERS is guilty of (For more info on this idea, see the first few chapters of Alasdair Macintyre's 'After Virtue').

I disagree with Kant's moral framework (his 'formula' for determining whether something is ethical or not) as I think it is impractical in TODAY's context, but I agree with Kant's spirit. The spirit of Kant is something that is still painfully relevant today (maybe even more than 1786). And what is that spirit?

The motto of Kant (and maybe the Enlightenment as a whole) is 'think for yourself'. Use your (own) head, your 'own reason'.

(This spirit is very much evident in his short essay 'What is Enlightenment', read it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Is_Enlightenment%3F , scroll to bottom for English translation).

Just check out this quote from that very essay (and people think he is humourless!): 

"It is so comfortable to be a minor. If I have a book that understands for me, a spiritual advisor who has a conscience for me, and so forth, I need not trouble myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome business for me".

(Quoted in Jones, Parker and ten Bos, 'For Business Ethics', published 2005, p. 52).

I currently pay £186/year to Specsavers for monthly contact lenses including solutions and 'aftercare' (a yearly contact lens check-up). One of my good friends told me that he buys his contacts from a website that would do my lenses (just the lenses though) for £52/year (at www.visiondirect.co.uk).

Fuck!

I have never had problems so far with contact lenses. And every contact lens check-up I'm told that my eyes are healthy. I know when my eyes are irritated and when it's time to throw lenses away etc. But some sort of regular check-up is needed - just look at all the various things that could go wrong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contact_lenses#Complications !!

The staff at Specsavers ALWAYS say that if you have a problem (like irritated eyes), you should make an appointment. I prefer to use my own reason, and I'm happy not to wear a contact for a bit of time to let my eye recover. Ultimately I could understand all the various complications I could get, and know all the symptoms to watch out for. But I haven't got the time. And I don't ENJOY doing that. And that's what Specsavers make money out of. 

I can live with that. But I HAVE to have a regular contact lens appointment otherwise Specsavers will NOT supply with lenses. I recently tried to obtain a free replacement pair that you get as part of the deal. But because the staff at Specsavers Slough eventually said no as they could not find proof that I had a check-up last year (I thought I had). Plus I have to have the checkup at Slough, it costs £20 to have it an another branch. How inflexible is that?! I'm a student for fuck's sake! (Talk about listening to customers).

But this time I'm going to use my own reason, not just follow where my parents tell me with regards to my optometric needs. It will take more time. but it will be fun! And interesting where it takes me. And who knows, I might radically change Specsavers' business model. Or they might just send me a cease-and-desist letter.

I'm sure Kant would be proud!!!!!!


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