Identity, emotion and the internal goods of practice: A study of learning disability professionals

Pamela Fisher, Victoria Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Contemporary transitions in the delivery of health and social care are a global phenomenon. They prompt a particular need to reconsider how quality in relation to professional practice should be understood and whether greater importance should be attached to values such as goodwill, altruism and commitment. Based on a qualitative study of a small voluntary sector organisation in the North of England, this paper addresses how changes in policy articulate with the identities of professionals who work in learning disability services. Drawing on MacIntyre’s After Virtue, which is discussed in relation to some recent sociological debates on emotion, it is suggested that professionals have an emotionally based commitment to their work as well as to the people they work with. Professional commitment is embedded in a coherent sense of self that problematises traditional binaries between the private and the public, and the cognitive and affective. The participants in this study appeared to pursue what MacIntyre terms the ‘internal goods’ of practice; they valued being able to work innovatively and responsively with service users. It is suggested that this requires a particular type of relationship with oneself, with others, and with practice,which engenders a criticality towards dominant professional discourses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79 - 94
Number of pages16
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number1
Early online date10 Jun 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


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