Skip navigation
Hardcover | Out of Print | 144 pp. | 6 x 9 in | April 1997 | ISBN: 9780262082587
Paperback | $25.00 Short | £19.95 | 144 pp. | 6 x 9 in | August 1998 | ISBN: 9780262581738
Mouseover for Online Attention Data

Instructor Resources

Reworking Authority

Leading and Following in the Post-Modern Organization


For many companies, the past decade has been marked by a sense of turbulence and redefinition. The growing role of information technologies and service businesses has prompted companies to reconsider how they are structured and even what business they are in. These changes have also affected how people work, what skills they need, and what kind of careers they expect. One critical change in how people work, argues Larry Hirschhorn, is that they are expected to bring more of themselves psychologically to the job. To facilitate this change, it is necessary to create a new culture of authority--one in which superiors acknowledge their dependence on subordinates, subordinates can challenge superiors, and both are able to show their vulnerability. In the old culture of authority, people suppressed disruptive feelings such as envy, resentment, and fear of dependency. But by depersonalizing themselves, they became "alienated"; in the process, the work of the organization suffered. In building a new culture of authority, we are challenged to express these feelings without disrupting our work. We learn how to bring our feelings to our tasks. The first chapters of the book examine the covert processes by which people caught between the old and new culture of authority neither suppress nor express their feelings. Feelings are activated but not directed toward useful work. The case studies of this process are instructive and moving. The book then explores how organizations can create a culture of openness in which people become more psychologically present. In part, the process entails an understanding of the changes taking place in how we experience our own identity at work and that of "others" in society at large. To do this, the book suggests, we need a social policy of forgiveness and second chances.

About the Author

Larry Hirschhorn is principal and senior research manager at the Wharton Center for Applied Research.


“. . . unusually eloquent in relating the trends of contemporarypopular culture to the structure of authority in working groups.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune


“A bold examination of the social and psychological dilemmas we face in the postmodern organization. Hirschhorn has a wonderful way of grounding theory in insightful and provocative vignettes. Organizational consultants and aware managers will find this book a must-read.”
John Seely Brown, Chief Scientist, Xerox Corporation; Director, Xerox PARC
“In Reworking Authority, Larry Hirschhorn continues and goes beyond his important contribution in understanding and managing organizations. By skillful integration of psychodynamics, strategy, economics of the firm, and important cultural patterns, he develops new concepts related to leadership and followership in the postmodern organization.”
Chris Argyris, James Bryan Conant Professor of Education and Organizational Behavior, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University
“In Reworking Authority, Larry Hirschhorn incisively describes the changing dynamics and difficulties of contemporary organizations. His approach to consulting with troubled groups, addressing the needs and fears of personnel at all levels in the hierarchy, is sensitive and sophisticated. This book will fascinate and inform anyone with an interest in the way organizations, or the people who work in them, function in our postmodern age.”
Jay Greenberg, Editor, Contemporary Psychoanalysis