Archetype Theory and the Changing Professional Organization: A Critique and Alternative

Ian Kirkpatrick*, Stephen Ackroyd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In recent years there has been growing interest in analysing processes of change in professional service organizations drawing on the concepts of archetype theory. In this article, our primary goal is to question the validity of these ideas. A key weakness, we argue, stems from the continued legacy of functionalism in this approach and the limited role given to human agency. A further problem is the uncritical generalization of assumptions about professional organization and change, especially in the context of public services. These difficulties, we suggest, bring into question the usefulness of archetype theory as a general model for understanding change. They also point to the need to develop alternative approaches to these issues. In this article such an alternative is outlined, combining recent advances in the social theory dealing with the relationship between agency and structure with ideas from the sociology of professions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-750
Number of pages20
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2003


  • Archetype theory
  • Institutional theory
  • Professional service organization
  • Public services
  • Sociology of professions

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