From the famed author of the bestselling The Second Shift and The Time Bind, a pathbreaking look at the transformation of private life in our for-profit world
The family has long been a haven in a heartless world, the one place immune to market forces and economic calculations, where the personal, the private, and the emotional hold sway. Yet as Arlie Russell Hochschild shows in The Outsourced Self, that is no longer the case: everything that was once part of private life—love, friendship, child rearing—is being transformed into packaged expertise to be sold back to confused, harried Americans.
Drawing on hundreds of interviews and original research, Hochschild follows the incursions of the market into every stage of intimate life. From dating services that train you to be the CEO of your love life to wedding planners who create a couple's "personal narrative"; from nameologists (who help you name your child) to wantologists (who help you name your goals); from commercial surrogate farms in India to hired mourners who will scatter your loved one's ashes in the ocean of your choice—Hochschild reveals a world in which the most intuitive and emotional of human acts have become work for hire.
Sharp and clear-eyed, Hochschild is full of sympathy for overstressed, outsourcing Americans, even as she warns of the market's threat to the personal realm they are striving so hard to preserve.
It used to take a village, but these days it takes a full-service mall, much of it in cyberspace. Finding a mate, planning a wedding, potty-training a child, or being a better father once intuitive, ordinary tasks involving family, friends, and neighbors now require the services of paid experts, trainers, and a plethora of coaches, such as Internet dating coach Evan Katz, aka e-Cyrano, or Family360, which teaches executives to "invest time and attention in high leverage' family activities." Incisive, provocative, and often downright entertaining, U.C. Berkeley sociologist Hochschild (The Second Shift) compares Turner, Maine the self-sufficient farming village where she spent summers as a child with the global marketplace, where it's possible to outsource burials at sea. Hochschild's most compelling chapters center on surrogate motherhood: at India's Akanksha Clinic (the world's largest group of commercial surrogates), surrogates are instructed to think of their wombs as "carriers, bags, suitcases, something exterior to themselves," and are forbidden to breast feed the babies they're paid to carry for strangers. Hochschild makes the trenchant observation that many pressing for a greater expansion of the free market, gutting of regulations, and cuts in social services are the same people who call for stronger family values, perhaps unaware of the way the market distorts them.