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Class Acts: Service and Inequality in Luxury Hotels Paperback – January 17, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0520247826 ISBN-10: 0520247825 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 373 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (January 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520247825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520247826
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #714,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Sherman's insightful ethnography sheds light on the interactional dimension of symbolic boundaries and class relations as they are lived by luxury hotel clients and the workers who serve them. We learn how both groups perform class through emotion work and deepen our understanding of the role played by "niceness" in constituting equality and reversing hierarchies. As such, Class Acts is a signal contribution to a growing literature on the place of the self concept in class boundaries. It will gain a significant place in a body of work that broadens our understanding of class by moving beyond structural determinants and taking into consideration the performative, emotional, cognitive, and expressive dimensions of inequality."—Michele Lamont, author of The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration

"Eye-opening, amusing, and appalling, Rachel Sherman's Class Acts explains how class inequality is normalized in the refined atmosphere of luxury hotels. This beautifully observed and engagingly written ethnography describes what kinds of deference and personal recognition money can buy. Moreover, it shows how workers who provide luxury service avoid seeing themselves as subordinate and how those whose whims are catered to are made comfortable with their privilege. Class Acts is a sobering and timely account of the legitimation of extreme inequality in a culture that prizes egalitarianism."—Robin Leidner, University of Pennsylvania

"Rachel Sherman provides a penetrating and engrossing study of workers and guests in luxury hotels. Do workers resent the guests? Do guests disdain the workers? Sherman argues neither is true-and explains why."—Julia Wrigley, author of Other People's Children

About the Author

Rachel Sherman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Yale University.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Rose on May 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading Class Acts: Service and Inequality in Luxury Hotels, and I mean reading it: Acknowlegments, Introduction, Chapters 1-6, Conclusion, Appendices A, B & C, and Notes. Okay, I did not read References and Index, but close enough.

What a great ethnography! What a great voice! The writer, Rachel Sherman, manages to be impressively objective and fair as she observes and participates in the service economy of the luxury hotel. Since I am an arm chair-bleeding heart liberal, I wanted there to be a clear demarcation between "good guys" and "bad guys," but Sherman paints a far more complicated and nuanced picture of the social dynamics at work in the luxury service sector. As a result, the Conclusion provides a satisfying critique, since it is in this section that Sherman lets her views be known. I find this admirable because it indicates this researcher's ability to distinguish between observation, analysis, and critique.

Class Acts is a scholarly work, yet the writing style is extremely lucid. Yes, the author uses jargon -- intersubjectivity, habitus, interpellated -- but what is really cool is how Sherman uses language to mirror some of the class distinctions she is writing about, at times conveying theory and abstraction and at others conveying terms like "ripped off" and "pissed." The contrast is refreshing.

Sherman also does an excellent job of sign postng. In a straightforward way, she reminds the reader of who is who, foreshadows ideas to come, and acknowledges ideas previously introduced. I found all these textual reminders to be helpful. Not only that, but Sherman offers advice on how to tip in the Notes.

Finally, the author does a great job weaving the motif of movies and image making throughout the text -- from Pretty Woman to My Dinner with Andre -- to underscore both the transformative power of the luxury hotel setting and the nature of work and class distinctions.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Zachary Carr on April 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
"Class Acts: Service and Inequality in Luxury Hotels" is a captivating look at how class gets played out in a particular setting -- and yet it has a lot to say about how we all relate to our social and economic class (whether or not we work or stay at luxury hotels). It's a sociological study, and though I'm not a sociologist, I found it accessible, not too academic, and packed with interesting anecdotes.

The author, Rachel Sherman, talks about the luxury hotel as a kind of "theater" where guests and workers act out class relations and fill their own needs. For their part, workers strive to protect their dignity, even as they are subservient on the job to very wealthy guests. To accomplish this, workers may take pride in their skills, criticize guests behind their backs, or--as discussed in an especially fascinating section of the book--turn their jobs into a kind of strategic game. Meanwhile, guests rationalize the lavish service they enjoy by, for example, treating workers as equals or even friends--in the process "erasing" class differences or acting as if they don't exist. The book could have stopped there and been really interesting; but it goes further, and shows how workers and guests come to depend on each other to perform (or even become) their roles.

I once stayed in a luxury hotel for a few nights on work. The book grabbed me because of the backstage look it provides at this dramatic setting, and held onto me for another reason. We all play strategic "games" on the job and elsewhere, we all play roles in relation to people of various classes, we all rationalize our choices and tell ourselves stories to make sense of things. That's why "Class Acts" is pertinent to everyday life and politics in America.
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By Daisy on December 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
good condition. needed it for a class. interesting book to read
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By Kevin Vang on August 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
great book! Fast shipping.
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4 of 20 people found the following review helpful By M. James on April 13, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Just the facts, Ma'am" encapsulates this book for me. Reading it took me back to my school days and gave me that "book report is due" feeling. The author's approach is very scientific, detailed, emotionless as though the writer may have a touch of Asperger's Syndrome. It appears to be only half a book because so much of the emotional aspects of her experiences are missing. I can hardly imagine a more emotionally charged atmosphere than a 5-star hotel crammed with wealthy, pampered, driven, ambitious people juxtaposed intimately with those whose very livelihoods depend on satisfying their every inane desire. Yet the author makes it sound as exciting as filling orders at Starbucks. The myriad people this author encountered had fascinating stories to tell that could have shed light on what life is like in the hospitality industry. Yet we hear nothing. Susie did this. Bob did that. I worked here. I worked there. Boring. Boring. Boring. What was the purpose of this book, anyway? There are a few humorous stories here and there. The guests seem oblivious, the staff comes across as basically money-hungry, ever looking for that next tip - only doing nice things for the guests to get more money. If this is what staying at a swanky hotel is like - I'll take the Holiday Inn. At least I know where I stand. And I don't have to stock up on one dollar bills before checking in.
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