Gloria's Reviews > The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling

The Managed Heart by Arlie Russell Hochschild
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Nov 07, 2011

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Read from November 07, 2011 to July 25, 2013

(Yes, it took me a long time to finish this book…)

And although it is a wee bit 'dated' in that it is 20+ years old, this book still very relevant. Definitely not written as many books are today (with the popular audience in mind) but still highly readable and relevant—particularly as so many jobs have shifted more heavily toward the service end, and as the effects of branding has started to bled both through social media and physical/employee representation. In fact, I do think that the distinction between normal 'emotional work' (within the private or personal space) and the transmutation to 'emotional labor' (that of the public or capitalized space) is all that clear any longer… see student evaluations of teachers, which have been also noted to be 'popularity' ratings more than efficacy ratings… in fact, because of the effects of social media, the 'narrow channel' (the third condition for the transmutation) within which the capitalized emotional work must be performed has become 24/7, or not just in the classroom, or not just in the (physical) workplace…

For those who don't want to read through the book, it is easy enough to find a textbook summary of Hochschild's major contribution in a sociology text book. I will say that I found the last three chapters (about debt collectors, gender and seeking authenticity) the most insightful/current.That said, I think it is a very important book, and I am glad to have read it.

Some notes:
"Scientific writing, like scientific talk, has a function similar to that of covering the face and genitalia. It is an extension of institutional control over feeling. The overuse of passive verb forms, the avoidance of 'I', the preference for Latinate nouns, and for the abstract over the concrete, are customs that distance the reader from the topic and limit emotionality. In order to seem scientific, writers obey conventions that inhibit emotional involvement. There is a purpose for 'poor' writing." (footnote 50)

Interesting that I tagged this: "Her brave defense of the 'safe homey atmosphere' of the plane might keep order, but at the price of concealing the facts from passengers who might feel it their right to know what was coming." p 107

Other randoms:
"…Thus a third issue arises: 'If I'm doing deep acting for an audience from whom I'm disconnected, how can i maintain my self-esteem without becoming cycnica l?' There wer those for whom the issue of phoniness—and self-esteem—was resolved by redefining the job… To keep on working with a sense of honor a person has to stop taking the job seriously. On one side, hard experience forces the worker to associate less and less of herself with the job, while on the other side the job is whittled dow to 'maintaining an illusion.' " [134-5]

"Almost everyone does the emotion work that produces what we might, broadly speaking, call deference. But women are expected to do more of it. A study by Wikler (1976) comparing male with female university professors found that students expected women professors to be warmer and more supportive than male professors; given these expectations, proportionally more women professors were perceived as cold…" [168; citation is "Sexism in the classroom; paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, 1976; another paper re psychologists and gender differences: "Sex stereotypes and clinical judgments of mental health." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 34:1-7, 1970.]

Re compensating for lack of respect of authority and status:
"One response was to adopt the crisply cheerful but no-nonsense style of a Cub Scout den mother—a model of female authority borrowed from domestic life and used here to make it acceptable for women to tell adult men what to do…Another response to displaced anger and challenged authority was to make small tokens of respect a matter of great concern. Terms of address, for example, were seen as an indicator of status, a promise of the right to politeness which those deprived of status unfortunately lack…Tokens of respect can be exchanged to make a bargain: I'll manage my unpleasant feelings for you if you'll manage yours for me.'" [180-1]

"There are three stances that workers seem to take toward work, each with its own risk. In the first, the worker identifies too wholeheartedly with the job, and therefore risks burnout. In the second, the worker clearly distinguishes herself form the job and is likely to suffer burnout; but she may blame herself for making this very distinction and denigrate herself as 'just an actor; not sincere.' In the third, the worker distinguishes herself from her act, does not blame herself for this, and sees the job as positively requiring the capacity to act; for this worker there is some risk of estrangement from acting altogether, and some cycnicism about it—'We're just illusion makers.' The first stance is potentially more harmful than the other tow, but the harm in all htree could be reduced, I believe, if workers could feel a greater sense of control over the conditions of their work lives." [187]

Last chapter and afterword worth re-reading.

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Reading Progress

11/07/2011 page 48
15.0% "I guess there are unconscious reasons that I haven't read this book, although I have been a fan of her other books Second Shift and Time Bind,... and unconscious reasons that propelled me to finally pick it up now. Very good so far. And disturbing. And sad."
11/08/2011 page 117
35.0% "I can't help thinking about education as a service industry while reading this book---the metaphor of the consumer economy and the entertainment/pleasing questions that also pervade course evaluations, either in the questions themselves or how students answer them."
07/20/2013 page 136
40.0% "After long transatlantic flights I thought I would pick this up again."
07/23/2013 page 180
53.0% "almost done…"
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