The postindustrial age has brought with it a new work environment, complete with new forms of organization and patterns of behavior. It has also created new anxieties for workers and for organizations. In this revealing study Larry Hirschhorn looks at the social defenses that organizations develop to cope with change. Using extended case studies and examples from offices, factories, and social services, he describes why these defenses exists, how they operate, and how they can be reshaped to enhance people's work experience.
Unlike traditional studies of the workplace that have tended to focus only on the firm's conscious values, attitudes, and norms, "The Workplace Within" weaves together psychoanalytic studies, theories of organizations as sociological settings, and conceptions of postindustrial society to uncover the hidden, irrational, and unconscious mechanisms that pattern organizational behavior. It challenges the traditional view that economics or the "bottom line" is the sole, or even the primary, motivating force behind the behavior of work organizations.
Hirschhorn examines three major forms of social defense: the basic assumption, the covert coalition, and the organizational ritual. Each is a group behavior that in some way helps contain the anxiety of working; yet each is self-limiting, or even self-defeating. He concludes that the postindustrial work system is double-edged. In supervising total systems of production and working increasingly across departments and units, people are brought closer to the product of their work and experience increased anxiety. Hirschhorn describes the "reparative organization" as one solution tothis dilemma; however, he asserts that the ultimate resolution lies outside the organization and in the society's culture of work, demanding a reconstruction of our political economy.