Symbolic power and professional titles: the case of “podiatric surgeon”

Document Type


Publication details

Borthwick, AM, Boyce, RA & Nancarrow, SA 2015, 'Symbolic power and professional titles: the case of “podiatric surgeon”', Health Sociology Review, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 310-322.

Published version available from:


Peer Reviewed



Interprofessional conflict has largely been understood in terms of jurisdictional disputes centred on contested task domains and role boundaries, with less attention paid to the symbolic value associated with specific professional titles. Bourdieu's concepts of symbolic power and capital help to shed light on the opposition of the medical profession in the UK to the adoption of the title “podiatric surgeon” by non-medically qualified podiatrists undertaking foot surgery. Focusing on the medical discourse evident in press and media coverage of the dispute over a 12-year period gives insights into the use of strategies of symbolic violence aimed at retaining control over the exclusive use of prestigious forms of professional title. Titles, as symbolic capital, are understood as central to professions’ struggle for legitimacy and recognition.

Find in your library