A case study of twenty-nine midwives and nine obstetricians working in a regional, public sector Australian hospital demonstrates the plasticity of professional boundaries within a post-welfare state. Driven by new discourses of globalisation, marketisation, managerialism and consumerism, professional boundaries in health care are being blurred, reordered and reconstituted. Government policies that call for a new interdisciplinarity between maternity professionals may be seen as responses to the above pressures. However, there remain considerable barriers to achieving collaborative models including conflicting interpretations of risk, of women's bodies and of childbirth; the veto power of decision-making retained by obstetricians; questions of professional accountability; and diversity over appropriate styles of micro-interaction. Collaboration demands a new egalitarianism to eclipse the old vertical system of obstetric dominance and this means that midwives need to create a distinctive professional specialty, or new object of knowledge. Midwives' skill in 'emotion management' could provide this speciality in addition to their rational-technical knowledge and thus elevate midwifery to an equivalent professional status with obstetrics but as yet neither obstetrics nor midwifery have realised its professionalising potential
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