Hollow from the start? Image professionalism in management consulting
This article shows how over the course of more than a century management consulting firms have managed to create an image of professionalism in order to both gain external legitimacy with their clients and control their own human resources. Adding to the extant literature on ‘professionalism as a resource’, it demonstrates in particular how during the development of the industry, the sources of this ‘image professionalism’ changed significantly, ranging from a close association with existing professions (engineering and accounting), to a mimicry of the legal profession, to a purely linguistic notion, akin to ‘professional’ sports. Hence, the ‘professionalism’ of management consulting was in many ways hollow from the start and hollowed out even further through its history. However, as the article also shows, there were opportunities for social closure with the creation of specific professional bodies in the industry — leaving open the question why these ultimately failed.