Authority and Autonomy Paradoxes in Modern Knowledge Work

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2012-10-16
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
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Authority and Autonomy invites you on an ethnographic journey into the heart of creative knowledge work. Based on detailed and vivid examples, it analyzes the concept of work entertained by employees in these companies. It shows the existence of fairly contradictory ideals: classical bureaucratic and professional virtues, and ideals drawing on late modern values about self-realization, authenticity and limitless exploration. The same set of contradictory values is carried into the hierarchical dynamics, as managers and employees make unpredictable shifts in their expectations towards one another. Without signaling or even reflecting on the shifts, managers and employees jump back and forth between norms about authority, order-giving and hierarchy on the one hand, and autonomy, dialogue and self-direction on the other. These unpredictable shifts give rise to volatile conflicts, but also to intense mutual fantasies and passion. The author argues that this paradoxical environment in knowledge organizations has become more or less inevitable due to the high-velocity, growth-driven market. Furthermore, she highlights both the risks and gains associated with paradoxical environments and how it is important that we look at both.

Author Biography

SUSANNE EKMAN is an assistant professor at the Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. She holds an MA in Anthropology and a PhD in Management. She is primarily interested in the complex relationship between freedom and ethics and has recently pursued this issue ethnographically in the context of contemporary knowledge work.

Table of Contents

List of Tables

Desire, Discovery, and Disillusionment in Modern Working Life
Affective Labor and Post-bureaucracy
Setting the Scene - Analytics of Compassion
Methods – The Solidarity of Detachment
Contractuality and Authenticity – the Dual Discourses about Work
Captain or Comrade – What Employees Expect from their Managers
Predictable or Pioneering – What Managers Expect of Employees
Coping with Contradictions - Tensions, Double Binds and Hybrids

Shaking Analytical Habits – an Empirical Quest for Compassion
Methodological Details

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