The New Boss
The New Boss
Translated by Michael King

Any organization, no matter how stolid, may be unsettled by the news that a new boss is about to take over. Talk in the hallways increases, staff worry about their jobs, uncertainty grows. Even when the change has happened, problems emerge when the boss who was hired to manage ‘from above’ has to learn about the organization ‘from below’. In short, the relationship between bosses and employees is complicated.

In this book, Niklas Luhmann scrutinizes this relationship and shows how it is stretched to its limit by communication difficulties, demands for self-representation, problems with finding one’s proper role and disagreements concerning fundamental values. The new boss’s predecessor often casts a long shadow, and the influence of cliques within an organization may be hard to counteract. All of these issues are ultimately informed by the question ‘who has the power?’ According to Luhmann, this much is certain: it isn’t necessarily the boss, provided the employees are well versed in the art of directing their superiors. ‘Subtervision’ is Luhmann’s term for this state of affairs, and tact is the most important means to this end. Yet caution is advised: whoever achieves mastery in subtervision may well become the new boss.

This slim and thought-provoking book from one of the most influential sociologists of the 20th century will be of great interest to anyone seeking to understand the dynamics and machinations of the workplace, whether they are at the top or the bottom.

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  • September 2018 (pb)
    September 2018 (hb)
  • 136 pages
  • 124 x 190 mm / 5 x 7 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $45.00
  • 9781509517879
  • Paperback $12.95
  • 9781509517886
  • Open eBook $12.95
  • 9781509517916
Table of Contents

Introduction: “The Same Boss as the Old Was?” Andreas Hess

The New Boss

The Spontaneous Creation of Order

Subtervision or The Art of Directing Superiors

Afterword Jürgen Kaube

Sources of the Texts


About the Author
Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) was Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Bielefeld University.
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“While many know Niklas Luhmann in his capacity as a systems theoretician, few are aware that he has also written a number of important essays in organization theory. The New Boss represents an excellent introduction to this part of Luhmann’s work: it is bristling with interesting ideas about leadership, formal organizations, groups and much more.”
Richard Swedberg, Cornell University

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