The Outsourced Self
Intimate Life in Market Times
By Arlie Russell Hochschild
Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805088892, 300pp.
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
List Price: $27.00*
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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.
"Incisive, provocative, and often downright entertaining...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.” –Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“What happens to us as we outsource more and more of our personal—even intimate—tasks to paid "coaches," caretakers, companions, event planners and third world surrogate mothers? It takes a social thinker of great stature and scope to tackle this question, and a writer of immense charm to make the answer riveting. Arlie Hochschild is both, and this may be her best book ever.” –Barbara Ehrenreich"The nation's leading sociologist of daily life has turned her razor-sharp eye to rapid advance of the commodity frontier. Exposing both extreme (love coaches, wantologists) and ordinary (elder care, party planners) cases, Hochschild has produced a brilliant, compelling, and hard-to-put-down account of the expansion of market logic and its effects on our culture. This book deserves the country's attention." –Juliet Schor, author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth
“What have we given up, Arlie Hochschild worries, when we start paying experts for our most intimate activities? Taking us into a fascinating tour of love coaches, wedding planners, surrogate mothers and more, Hochschild offers her own compelling and controversial answers. Another triumph from this masterful social analyst and a gift to her legion of readers.” –Viviana Zelizer, author of The Purchase of Intimacy