Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. 20th anniversary ed, University of California Press, 2003.
Arlie Hochschild's examines flight attendants and bill collectors at work to articulate and illustrate what is at stake in the management of feeling that individuals are increasingly required to perform at their jobs. Hochschild's central contribution is the concept of emotional labor, which she defines as, “the management of feeling to create publicly observable facial and bodily display” (7). She distinguishes emotional labor, which refers to the instrumentalization of emotions for profit; from emotion work and emotion management, which designate the kind of handling feelings that takes place in a more personal context and not for profit (at least not explicitly). Hochschild worries about how the commodification of emotions might “deskill” individuals in relation to their capacity to identify and define themselves around feelings. In her study, Hochschild acknowledges that the profile of workers who are more commonly required to perform emotional work is very specific in terms of gender and class: that is, predominantly women, as “emotion management has been better understood and more often used by women as one of the offerings they trade for economic support” (21); and predominantly middle and upper classes, since in these contexts “women [with such status] have the job (or think they ought to) of creating the emotional tone for social encounters” (20) while “lower-class and working-class people tend to work more with things [than with people]” (21). Implicit in these claims is the fact that emotional labor was (is) also racialized. This is a thread I am particularly interested in picking up.
Chapter 8 of Hochschild’s book, “Gender, Status, and Feeling,” takes a deeper dive into the gendering of emotional labor. The author traces women’s instrumentalization of feeling back to the institution of marriage, in which in exchange of financial support, they provide “especially emotion work that affirms, enhances, and celebrates the well-being or status of others” (165). Hochschild connects the traditional image of women as caretakers to notions of motherhood to argue that in the transmutation of feeling, motherly tasks are attached to many job descriptions. I’m interested in putting Hochschild’s argument in conversation with Hortense Spillers’ thoughts on how American society has systematically denied/devalued black women's motherhood to argue that in the capitalization of emotion, the management of feeling becomes not only gendered but also racialized.
For more on Hochschild’s The Managed Heart, visit The Caring Labor website.