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The Commercialization of Intimate Life: Notes from Home and Work [Paperback]

Arlie Russell Hochschild
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 24, 2003 0520214889 978-0520214880
Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of three New York Times Notable Books, has been one of the freshest and most popular voices in feminist sociology over the last decades. Her influential, unusually perceptive work has opened up new ways of seeing family life, love, gender, the workplace, market transactions—indeed, American life itself. This book gathers some of Hochschild's most important and most widely read articles in one place, includes new work, and brings several essays to American audiences for the first time. Each chapter reflects on the complex negotiations we make day to day to juggle the conflicting demands of love and work. Taken together, they are a compelling, often startling, look at how our everyday lives are shaped by modern capitalism.

These essays, rich with the details of everyday life, explore larger social issues by looking at a series of intimate moments in people's lives. Among them, "Love and Gold" investigates the globalization of love by focusing on care workers who leave their own children and elderly to care for children and the elderly in wealthy countries. In "The Commodity Frontier," Hochschild considers an Internet ad for a "beautiful, smart, hostess, good masseuse—$400/week," and explores our responses to personal services for hire. In "From the Frying Pan into the Fire" she asks if capitalism is a religion. In addition to these recent essays, several of Hochschild's important early essays, such as "Inside the Clockwork of Male Careers," have been revised and updated for this collection.

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The Commercialization of Intimate Life: Notes from Home and Work + Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children, and Consumer Culture + The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today (Vintage)
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Editorial Reviews


"As a feminist, Hochschild celebrates some of the advances made by the women's movement. . . . There is wit, humour and joy, as well as portents of doom."--The Financial Times (UK) -- Review

Hochschild celebrates...advances made by the women's movement...acknoledges men's positive contribution. There's wit, humour, joy, and portents of doom. -- The British Financial Times, June 18, 2003

From the Inside Flap

"A fascinating read, representing the sociological imagination at its freest and finest. Hochschild has a mind nimble enough to dance -- but always to the beat of generous and compassionate heart."—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, On (Not) Getting By in America

"In this set of penetrating and engaging essays, Arlie Hochschild explores the persistent problems of intimacy, family, and care in an increasingly globalized consumer capitalism. Hochschild applies the trademark perception, originality, and human-ness that has made her one of the country's most distinguished and productive sociologists. With their impressive weave of sociological theory, ethnographic research, and analyses of popular culture, these essays are a tour de force."—Juliet Schor, author of The Overspent American

"In her new book Arlie Hochschild takes a major step beyond The Second Shift and The Time Bind by illuminating the achievements and pitfalls of what she rightly characterizes as the stalled revolution for gender equality. Hochschild shows that the idea of the traditional nuclear family, or 'family values,' is not the solution to all our social problems, but a monumental hoax. Only major changes in the institutional context of family and work can create the conditions for the warm family life that most Americans want."—Robert Bellah, Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

"In these remarkable essays, Hochschild breaks the well-established academic rule that to be profound you also have to be obscure. She subtly traces the cultural and structural trends that have objectified and commodified intimacy, emotion, personal commitment, and family life. Her messages are rarely rosy, but never fatalistic, and in all cases carry us beyond conventional wisdom on these elusive topics. Her prose is simultaneously scholarly, insightful, graceful, and full of surprises. What a pleasure it is to welcome this latest work."—Neil J. Smelser, author of The Social Edges of Psychoanalysis

"Hochschild's work is innovative. It combines close ethnographic study and attention to the details of family and emotional life, with analyses of wider cultural and social trends. The broad scope of her understanding of social life makes her work unusually insightful."—Demie Kurz, author of For Richer, For Poorer: Mothers Confront Divorce

Product Details

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (April 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520214889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520214880
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Arlie Russell Hochschild's most recent book The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times, explores the many ways in which the market enters our modern lives. It looks at how we both turn to the market as a source of much needed help and also how we try to protect ourselves from the implicit emotional detachment it can involve. The book has been reviewed in The New York Times Book Review and was excerpted - "The Outsourced Self" - in the Sunday New York Times "Review" Section.

Her other books include: The Managed Heart, The Second Shift, The Time Bind, The Commercialization of Intimate Life, The Unexpected Community and the co-edited Global Woman: nannies, maids and sex workers in the new economy. In reviewing the Second Shift (reissues in 2012 with a new Afterword) Robert Kuttner noted her "subtlety of insights" and "graceful seemless narrative" and called it the "best discussion I have read of what must be the quintessential domestic bind of our time." Newsweek's Laura Shapiro described the Time Bind as "groundbreaking." In awarding Hochschild the Jesse Bernard Award, the American Sociological Association citation observed her "creative genius for framing questions and lines of insight, often condensed into memorable, paradigm-shifting words and phrases." A retired U.C. Berkeley professor of sociology, she lives with her husband, the writer Adam Hochschild in Berkeley, California.

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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom June 4, 2003
Good books on work-family issues give us a window into the mind of the author, describe relevant issues in ways that make sense, and tell us what we can do to improve the world.  Great books do all of this, but also give us a glimpse into the author's soul, and leave us rethinking just about everything.  Arlie Hochschild's new book, "The Commercialization of Intimate Life," falls into the latter category.  That is does so is surprising: the book is a series of essays Arlie wrote over the span of three decades.  The key arguments from her most well-known books, The Managed Heart (1983), The Second Shift (1987), and The Time Bind (1997), all show up here, along with a piece on women, work and family in India, and her recent work on immigrant nannies and the children they leave behind in less-developed countries and those they raise in developed countries.  The toughest sledding are a couple of pieces that are critical of traditional sociology but help us see the grounding for Arlie's approach, and her relationship to traditional feminist thought as well.  That the word "approach" can be used in the singular for all of this work is amazing but accurate: the body of work is all marked by an understanding of work-family conflicts and their heavily gendered resolutions, along with a deep sense of caring about the adults and children involved.  The final essay, "The Clockwork of Male Careers," is one of the earliest, and a piece Joan Williams and I rediscovered with joy when working on our recent 'Half-Time Tenure Track' paper for "Change."  In the Clockwork piece, Arlie traces the dearth of women in academia to a male model of careers that leaves no room for family, but should. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hochschild hits it out of the park--again! November 21, 2013
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Brilliant piece of writing. The stories of the Indian surrogate mothers are heart-rending! Hochschild holds a magnifying glass up to American society and shows us (all too uncomfortably) how our basic "requirements" for a comfortable life have consequences we don't like to contemplate. She reveals the consequences (to cite one example) of an immigrant nanny has had to leave her own babies back in the Philippines to be raised by her mother in order to make enough money to support and entire family back in her own country--and the toll it takes on her to be separated from her own children.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intimacy for Sale August 8, 2011
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This collection of essays begins with the revelation that when the author was a little girl she noticed her stay-at-home mom was depressed, but her work-a-day dad was happy, so she decided she wanted to be like her dad not like her mom. Her reasoning contained at least two errors: 1) her mom may have been depressed for other reasons, and 2) just because her dad was happy working outside the home, that doesn't mean his daughter would be happy doing that too. Faulty reasoning that many girls and women still make today.

The author goes on to describe how child care and domestic chores have become commercialized, and most importantly: undervalued. Traditional men placed more value on production and consumption than on relating to family and children, and now modern women have become more like men. Instead of making men more humane, feminism (co-opted by capitalism) has made women more like cowboys.

The best essay is: 14) Love and Gold. As more and more Western women have moved into the workforce outside the home, a growing number of Third World women have emigrated to Western countries to take care of our children. In some cases uneducated women who come from a rural culture are better at child care than Western mothers who are preoccupied with purchasing gadgets, stressed by their careers, and anxious about scholastic demands. Many of the immigrant care-givers are mothers themselves, leaving their own children abroad to come and work here, with some evidence that their abandoned children suffer rather than gain.

One irony is that child care is among the lowest-paid occupations.
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