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Child in the BalanceZombies and Consciousness
Russell Hochschild is a sociologist, at the University of California at
Berkeley, whose well-known books--The Managed Heart: Commercialization of
Human Feeling (1983), The Second Shift: Working Parents and the
Revolution at Home (1989), and The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and
Home Becomes Work (1997)--have explored the impact of modern life on the
ways in which we manage our emotions and our time.
new volume is a good introduction to her concerns. It collects scattered
scholarly essays, from the past three decades, covering among other things
American (and Japanese) advice books for women, Indian mother-daughter
relationships, the eavesdropping of children, gender codes, gratitude,
globalization and child-care, and the sociology of emotion. The essays
originally appeared in various specialist journals and anthologies, but Hochschild's
prose is, on the whole, clear and engaging, as one might expect from the
popularity of her earlier books.
essays are not, however, mere popularizations, but undertake to define pieces
of a complex picture of contemporary life at home and on the job. Throughout
the author emphasizes the importance of giving and receiving emotional nurture
in a culture where that value has been undermined by sexual politics, by the
increasing demands of work and the "outsourcing" of many traditional
elements of the family, and by the resulting commercialization of intimate
approach is that of a feminist who is cautious about women's "success"
in recent decades. "American culture," she complains, "incorporated
what of feminism fit with capitalism and individualism, but it resisted the
rest" (254). It may have accepted the principle of equal pay for equal
work, but if women are making progress by "assimilating to old-time male
rules" (29), is this the kind of equality women really want? She
worries that women may have leapt "from the frying pan of patriarchy into
the fire of capitalism" (148).
the nineteenth century, she supposes, "female homemakers formed a moral
brake on capitalism." She has no nostalgia for the Victorian era, but as
women have been drawn into the work force, increasingly on the same emotional
terms as men, she thinks the result has been "a harshness of life that
seems so normal to us we don't see it." To replace that harshness, Hochschild
recommends a society that "rewards care as much as market success,"
one that does not undermine "a nonmarket public sphere" (8).
other words, Hochschild is concerned, like many critics, about global
capitalism's turning everything in human life into a commodity, something that
can be bought or sold. Even price-less things end up, thanks to the economist's
notion of "opportunity cost," being measured against the profit that
could have been made. The triumph of capitalism, or at least the unchecked
greed of our gilded age, has accompanied the gradual decline of alternative
standards for judging human action: religious creed, civic code, or family
buy something at the store. We bring it home. We compare what we have at home
with what we bought. That comparison leads us to reappraise what we have at
home." (42) We gradually acquire a new set of standards and a new
understanding (or misunderstanding) of our desires. "Exposed to a
continual bombardment of advertisements ... workers are persuaded to 'need'
more things. To buy what they now need, they need money. To earn money, they
work longer hours." (209) Capitalism thus becomes a self-supporting cultural
system, which overwhelms local customs everywhere (144, 209). Hochschild thus
offers a critique of "consumerism," but one connected to a critique
of changes in family life.
problem, as she sees it, is that "Capitalism ... competes with the
family." What she calls the "time bind" is at the heart of the
problem. "Americans are putting in longer hours than workers of any other
industrialized nation," she says (145). That means less time for raising
children, less time for homemaking. She argues that "work is becoming a
little more ritualized and sacred ... while the family is becoming less so"
(203). In part, this may have a practical basis, as she notes that "a
good number of workers I interviewed had worked for the company for twenty
years or more, whereas they were on their second or third marriages." To
these workers, work was "their major source of security. They were
getting their pink slips at home." (206) But she sees a deeper
ideological foundation for the change, and often speaks of "the religion
not only competes for time with the family, it also changes the nature of
family time by making the ideal of efficiency normative in the private sphere
as well (145). In telling concrete examples, such as a magazine ad for instant
oatmeal pitched at "moms who have a lot of love but not a lot of time"
(141), or an Internet ad for a personal assistant that raises the question of "what
activities seem to us too personal to pay for" (30), Hochschild's keen
sociologist's eye discerns the consequences of accommodations people have made
to the new realities.
points out how we increasingly seek care from experts, how families separate
their self image of being caring and close from their actual, too busy lives,
and how overcommitted family members have "packed one activity close up
against the next, eliminating the framing around each event, periods of looking
forward to or back upon an event, which might have heightened its emotional
result of the changes in the modern management of time and emotion, in Hochchild's
view, is a crisis of care. She distinguishes four models of care: (a) the
patriarchal "traditional" model (homemaker mother), (b) the
delusional "postmodern" model (working supermom), (c) the "cold
modern" model (impersonal institutional care), and (d) the "warm
modern" model, "in which institutions provide some care of the young
and elderly, while women and men join equally in providing private care as well"
(214). She sees the United States as currently "moving steadily toward a
synthesis of the postmodern and cold modern models, while Norway, Sweden, and
Denmark still lead the world in establishing a warm modern model" (222).
American life affirms the moral ideal of sexual equality, but in a way that
weakens the ideal of "emotionally rich social bonds" (15). Her
positive "warm" program for saving the latter boils down to three
factors: "male sharing of care at home, family-friendly workplace
policies, and social honor associated with care" (270, cf. 222).
Sometimes she suggests that the first two factors may be necessary for the
third, as the way to raise the value of care is "to involve fathers in it"
(196). This in turn requires, among other things, employer flexibility. She
offers Norway as a model in providing a year's paternity leave (at
90 percent pay) for all employed men. (She puts a positive spin on the fact
that four out of five Norwegian men take "over a month.")
modern American advice books, Hochschild observes, "women are encouraged
to be cooler while men are not urged to become warmer." But such a
cooling would only "conserve the damage capitalism did to manhood
instead of critiquing it" (27). Of course, she does not deny that "capitalism
has, through the creation of a middle class, removed many people from the
hardships of poverty and, in so doing, stabilized family life." But, she
insists, "the dynamism of capitalism coupled with a state that--by
European standards--does little to protect workers from market fluctuations or
changing economic demands and offers few provisions to aid in family care,
makes America a somewhat harsher, if freer, society in which to live"
contemporary signs indicate that Hochschild's concerns are likely to figure
prominently in the next decade's politics, as American men and women try to
discover whether it is really possible to make our lives less harsh, and no
© 2003 Edward Johnson
Johnson, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, University of New Orleans