The authors argue that modernity can be defined by a critique of political and social authority. Authority may be described as a form of power; it cannot be understood as an attribute of individuals, but as a form of social interaction, a clear model of which can be found in the relationship between teacher and student. Authority in this sense can be viewed as a way of giving and receiving orientation. It comes in degrees, as part of an ongoing social process of ascription, driven by emotional dynamics such as respect, esteem, admiration, fear and shame. Authority in the modern sense is not only less hierarchical than in the case of classical stereotypes, but also less dependent on traditional male images. The price paid by modern authority, however, is that it is a less visible form of authority, one that has little representation in the popular imagination.