This chapter attempts to develop such an alternative, drawing on my work on the social organization of health visitor training. It begins by reviewing what remains the dominant contemporary mode of thinking about profession, the attribute approach, and the main criticisms of it, which one may broadly identify as structural, political and epistemological. The attribute approach begins from the basic assumption that it is possible to draw up a list of fixed criteria for recognizing a profession on which there will be a general consensus. The classic exposition of the structural alternative is that of Eliot Freidson. The key weakness of Freidson's approach it that he is trying to perform the same operation as the attribute theorists. Just as Abraham Flexner thought he had found a fundamental criterion in professional spirit, so Freidson believes he has found one in professional autonomy. The relevant personal qualities may be explicitly formulated as in this extract from a lecture on health visiting practice.