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The Managed Heart

Commercialization of Human Feeling

By Arlie Russell Hochschild
10-minute read
Audio available
The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling by Arlie Russell Hochschild

The Managed Heart (1983) is the seminal sociological text that introduced the concept of emotional labor. These blinks reveal how we adjust our emotions to our advantage in social and professional contexts, and shed light on the risks and consequences of this form of self-management.

  • Readers working customer-facing jobs
  • Students interested in gender issues in the workplace
  • Working mothers frustrated with the expectations they face

Arlie Russell Hochschild is a Professor Emerita of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. A renowned author, Hochschild has written three New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year: The Second Shift, The Managed Heart, and The Time Bind. Her latest book is Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

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The Managed Heart

Commercialization of Human Feeling

By Arlie Russell Hochschild
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling by Arlie Russell Hochschild
Synopsis

The Managed Heart (1983) is the seminal sociological text that introduced the concept of emotional labor. These blinks reveal how we adjust our emotions to our advantage in social and professional contexts, and shed light on the risks and consequences of this form of self-management.

Key idea 1 of 6

Emotional labor plays a central role in our personal and professional lives, but we don’t usually talk about it openly.

From baristas to flight attendants to supermarket cashiers, we expect service with a smile from workers across many industries. But as anyone who’s worked in a customer-facing job knows, faking a friendly attitude all day long is difficult, to say the least. And yet, it’s one of those job requirements that’s so ubiquitous, employers rarely think to name it.

Sociologists studying the world of work, on the other hand, call this emotional labor. Emotional labor is when we consciously manage our feelings to ensure they’re appropriate for a particular commercial or social setting.

The work done by flight attendants is a powerful example of emotional labor. During their training, flight attendants are taught to smile “genuinely,” emphasizing that this outward display of a good mood can’t appear forced. Attendants must be warm and cheerful when serving food and drinks to passengers.

A charming “How are you doing today?” is part of the service, too. Small talk and smiles might seem trivial, but when they aren’t there, we notice. Without the emotional work that flight attendants put in, many passengers would consider their service inadequate.

Another profession where emotional labor plays a central role is, of course, acting. On stage, an actor demonstrates his talent by creating the illusion of experiencing emotions that aren’t his own, that he has perhaps never even felt.

However, there’s a crucial difference between the emotional labor of actors and flight attendants: while theater involves emotional labor in the pursuit of art, the flight industry’s emotional labor policies are engineered by corporations that, above all, want to make a profit.

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