Freelance professionals?

It seems like all of the items in the media I come across these days — the ones that make me think about professional ethics anyhow — aren’t about how professionals behave (ethically or otherwise). Rather they concern the broad contexts of labor, management, professions, unions, governments, the economy, and I-don’t-know-what. Every worker is more-or-less tangled in forces beyond her control, including the apparently least tangled workers these days, the freelancers or gig workers.

I don’t know much about the freelance economy, aside from the techies who can work anywhere they can get an Internet connection and any time they feel like working. Sara Horowitz, in her call for “Help for the way we work now”[1], tells us that “there are now 53 million freelance workers nationwide, according to a 2014 study,” and they “make up more than one-third of the American work force.”

Freelancing provides a great deal of autonomy (one of the often mentioned characteristics of a professional) at the cost of job security, retirement and health care benefits, and other difficulties that are part of the cost of working ahead of the rest of the work culture and governmental support.

My earlier posts on finding meaning in work, higher education’s responsibility to graduates seeking jobs, and intense workplace cultures are all about tensions between how people become workers/laborers/professionals and how being workers fails to nurture people (who happen to work).

Is this social justice? Is it professional ethics? What is the future of professional ethics if not the environment of professionals (no matter how defined)? Is the standard concerns of professional ethics – confidentiality, conflicts of interest, fiduciary duties – the past of professional ethics?

Tell me what you think.

Ken Pimple
September 7, 2015
(Labor Day in the United States)
3:30 pm EDT


[1] Horowitz, Sara. 2015. “Help for the way we work now.” New York Times (September 7 online and in print in the New York edition, on page A17). (verified September 7, 2015).

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Ken Pimple

About Ken Pimple

I've been involved in the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics before its actual creation. I am coordinating the international conversation on the future of practical and professional ethics for APPE, and organizing five workshops that will be held at Indiana University in Bloomington in academic year 2014-15.

One thought on “Freelance professionals?

  1. More on the freelance or gig economy:

    Benner, Katie. 2015. “Politicians Turn to Start-Ups for Grasp of ‘Gig Economy’.” New York Times (October 4).

    And another piece that might be related:

    Hardy, Quentin. 2015. “A View Emerges of Business Technology’s Future as the Personalization of the Machine.” New York Times (October 4).

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