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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking for love in all the right [market] places
I'm a big fan of Arlie Hochschild, since I read The Managed Heart in grad school. She's done ground-breaking research in emotion management, then went on to talk about families and managing time.

This time I was eager to get her book. The writing and organization are superb. My biggest disappointment is that the book turned out to be a very fine piece of...
Published on February 28, 2012 by Dr. Cathy Goodwin

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An easy read, but nothing new
The author, who used to live on a farm in Turner, Maine, in about the 1930's, then after her dad was transferred to a US embassy in Israel, everything was done for the family, recalled of a time when, for families the pride was in the labor, everybody helping everybody, where little money changed hands, but many gifts were given. Also, more people moved from farms to the...
Published on May 17, 2012 by Joseph Oppenheim


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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking for love in all the right [market] places, February 28, 2012
This review is from: The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times (Hardcover)
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I'm a big fan of Arlie Hochschild, since I read The Managed Heart in grad school. She's done ground-breaking research in emotion management, then went on to talk about families and managing time.

This time I was eager to get her book. The writing and organization are superb. My biggest disappointment is that the book turned out to be a very fine piece of journalistic writing. The jacket of the preview copy referred to original research, but I saw only references to occasional articles. Most references were to the popular journals.

I'd have liked to see a more rigorous discussion of the origins of this phenomenon as well as a more precise delineation of the concept. Does outsourcing these "intimate" services resemble paying for organ donation, a controversial area? Or is it just an extension of outsourcing services like restaurant dining and house cleaning? I'd also like to see some research on outsourcing's impact on society and on the "self." The title is catchy but what's outsourced isn't the self but a series of activities, often leaving more time for self-expression and self-discovery.

Hochschild begins by contrasting her own childhood on a farm with her other life as a pampered daughter of a State Department employee overseas; at home on the farm, the family pitched in to do everything. At the embassy everything was outsourced to drivers and house staff.

Throughout the book, Hochschild presents this theme: the old way - when people did things for themselves or turned to their families - versus the contemporary way of paying to get things done. Hochschild investigates several diverse areas of outsourcing, including dating, funerals, surrogate parenting, surrogate parenting, friendship, wedding planning and children's party organizing. She digs deeply into one provider and one customer in each area. For instance, she interviewed Marc Katz as a dating coach and talked to one of his satisfied clients at length. We get an interesting story but can't draw broader conclusions about the phenomenon of online dating or the proliferation of dating coaches.

Hochschild seems bothered by the fact that people are turning to paid resources for help. She emphasizes feelings of conflict that some interviewees admit: "How much should I do and how much should I outsource?" There's an unspoken implication that we outsource only when we must; given adequate time, we could do all these things ourselves.

Yet I can't help wondering: What's the problem? Much of this isn't new. And if you want to make the case that individuals, groups or societies are being harmed, you need to come up with some evidence.

It's certainly true that some of our most memorable experiences come from doing things ourselves; Hochschild remembers her own farm and she describes a dad who tried to host his own children's party. Yet was there really a more idyllic era when people took care of themselves and relied on family? Often the work that's now done by paid outsiders was done by the wife of the nuclear family. Some of those women felt just as invisible as the paid professional assistant. Weddings? Caregiving? Parenting? Yes - that was mom's job.

Hochschild notes that people confide in coaches, psychotherapists and massage therapists. (She notes that coaches are encouraged to "keep their distance," but that doesn't mean cutting off a client who's determined to over-share.) What's new? Hair stylists and bartenders have been hearing personal stories - a phenomenon documented in the academic literature. The coaching profession began to grow in the early part of this century but top executives and professionals often hired "consultants" to help them informally, under a different name.

I wish Hochschild had dug deeper into the broader scale of personal services, which has had an impact on many of us. When I was an undergraduate, I don't recall classmates who paid for manicures, pedicures, waxing and highlights; when I taught undergraduates in the late 1990s, many viewed these services as necessities. Few people agree with one of my crotchety friends who can't understand why women get manicures; "can't they do their own nails?" he asks, genuinely bewildered. Massages used to be reserved for athletes and actors; now just about everyone has had a massage at least once.

I also wonder if we've created a culture of dependence and if it's bad. For years I exercised on my own in the gym, sometimes with group classes. Then a personal trainer offered a trial pack of discounted sessions and now when time permits I love working with a trainer. Up through the 60s or 70s, most people dealt with their own career challenges and until very recently, college students completed their own applications. Now career coaches and admissions services are common. Of course, a problem does arise when the college students try to outsource their homework assignments.

One question I've pondered is, "Why do some problems lead to services and others don't?" For instance, coaches are available to help with divorce and wedding planning. Moving is just as complex and can be even more costly in both money and agony, yet the notion of a relocation coach hasn't caught on. There's also an irony that, surprisingly, wasn't mentioned: while families outsource all sorts of support, we're seeing an increase in home schooling.

Finally, I find myself agreeing with the respondent who asked, "What's the problem? Services are better when you pay for them." Part of the reason is that we often pay for services to navigate complex, high-risk journeys that we take infrequently. Getting into college, getting divorced or caring for an aging parent is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of us; we just don't have the knowledge to make wise decisions. Why should we?

Anyway, sometimes it's easier to pay than to negotiated informal "favors" that often carry a bigger price tag. Hospitals frequently require patients to find a ride home after certain procedures, and these days you can pay someone. (One hospital outpatient service used to require the "family member" to remain onsite the entire time of outpatient surgery; they had to give up the requirement because few people could do it.) Laws are changing to allow compensation for bone marrow donation, and ultimately (I suspect) organ donation, ultimately saving thousands of lives. Writing in the New York Times Magazine, psychiatrist Sally Satel claimed that she'd rather have paid for a kidney outright than dealt with the awkward negotiations and time-consuming search for a kidney that didn't come with intangible baggage.

Of course, as Hochschild says, nothing is perfect. She reports people who have had trouble with dating services, including a "friend of a friend" who knew someone who was attacked on a computer date. Well, that's not new either, and the same thing could happen with dating partners who are introduced by a friend or meet at an office party.

Perhaps I'm imposing my own requirements on this book. I really wanted some sociological theory, not another journalistic series of chapters. At the same time, I couldn't help becoming engaged in Hochschild's arguments and in her own story. The book is definitely worth reading; if I were still in a book club I'd love to discuss this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An easy read, but nothing new, May 17, 2012
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This review is from: The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times (Hardcover)
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The author, who used to live on a farm in Turner, Maine, in about the 1930's, then after her dad was transferred to a US embassy in Israel, everything was done for the family, recalled of a time when, for families the pride was in the labor, everybody helping everybody, where little money changed hands, but many gifts were given. Also, more people moved from farms to the cities, with the rise of the working woman and divorce undermining the ability of families to care for themselves, while more services were used by the middle class.

The book goes into how more and more these services were outsourced. Examples, etc covered in the book are....

1. Courtship moved from the community all the way to on-line services like match.com. Similar services were provided for finding college roommates and company work teams. Also, services for love coaches, wedding planners including elopement packages.

2. In vitro fertilizations and surrogate moms, and with college tuitions getting expensive, coeds becoming egg donors for money.

3. Nameologists, baby planners, specialists for safety proofing homes, teaching babies sign language, potty training, driving children around to activities, child birthday planners, etc.

4. Also the author describes "Family360" which provides a parents evaluation which is a starter service to be followed by other paid services depending on evaluation results.

5. Plenty of child-rearing books, etc.

6. The author also writes that the global south part of the planet has borne the brunt of these "neo-liberal" economic policies where free markets have caused these southern nations to lose jobs (workers headed to the US for higher pay service jobs, then send money back to the nations). But, people who do remain in these nations live more authentic, relaxed lives.

7. Household managers are described. Also, life coaches, jobs to help the elderly. Plus, services like Rent-a-Mom, Rent-a-Dad, Rent-a-Grandma, Rent-a-Friend, etc. Including people who visit nursing/senior home residents, funeral, grave site services.

8. Wantologists to provide whatever a person wants.

9. Curiously, many who call for the expansion of the free market to provide these services are the very people who call for stronger family values.

In conclusion, an easy read, though most of the tings covered should be pretty obvious to most people, so I can't say I learned anything significant from the book, though some may benefit.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Should Have Outsourced This Review, March 28, 2012
This review is from: The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times (Hardcover)
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Author Arlie Hochschild begins the The Outsourced Self by recalling her childhood on a small farm in New England, when everyone in the extended family and the community pitched in during tough times. I immediately assumed that she would be looking at all this newfangled outsourcing as a bad thing. On the contrary, she treats the whole project as the professional sociologist that she is, and keeps an open mind. The reader, on the other hand, may find some of the examples over the top. I certainly did.

Professional dating coaches seemed extreme to me, but as I read about them, I could see the advantage in having someone who isn't a friend or relative to tell you what you're doing wrong. Sometimes your best friend really won't tell you.

The whole surrogate mother phenomenon is already Twilight Zone territory in my mind, but I had no idea that some people actually hire women in India to carry their offspring to term. This chapter was the most dramatic and memorable in the book.

Of course, some of the jobs have been around for a long time and people have been wrestling with whether it's "cheating." The section on children's birthday party planners made me remember the Dick Van Dyke Show episode in which the parents were almost peer-pressured into renting an amusement park for their eight-year-old's birthday party. They decided to buck the trend and it was a disaster, and then a memorable, if exhausting party for both the children and adults. In real life, as Hochschild tells it, the results are also disastrous, but remembered fondly by the children.

The narrative running through the book is a personal one, in which Hochschild tries to do the right thing for her aunt in New England who can't live alone anymore, but who has no other relatives to turn to. Hochschild lives in California, so it's a dilemma. The sociologist turns into a real person who weighs the pros and cons of outsourcing the most basic of responsibilities - taking care of a loved one. It's a balancing act in terms of quality of care, cost, and guilt.

At one point, Hochschild wonders if all this outsourcing is saving anyone any time at all, or is it like the advent of all the home appliances that were going to save housewives time and effort? You already know the answer - just like the personal computers that were going to create a paperless office and allow us to become super efficient - what used to be weekly laundry has become daily laundry and phone calls that had to be answered tomorrow have become emails or texts that have to be answered within minutes.

It does appear that many people have lost the plot when they hire parenting coaches, for instance. But on the plus side, now we have experts to help us sort through the paperwork and decisions to make when a parent suddenly has to go into a nursing home.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Our World Has Changed, So Much is Outsourced, April 9, 2012
This review is from: The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times (Hardcover)
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****
This interesting book details how much the modern American culture has changed, so much that things that were taken care of by the immediate family, extended family, or local community is all now outsourced. "So much of what we used to do for one another as neighbors, friends, and family--what I experienced as village life--we now secure by turning to the market." Really, everything--our whole culture--has changed, and in reading this book you see both the scope and the implications of these changes.

These outsourced services are more democratized, more specialized, more professional, and more technology-based than the formerly-done-by-the-family services, resulting in the commodification of intimate life and personal life. the author discusses such services (and professions) as: holiday gift buyer, photo album assembler, friends for rent, gravesite tenders, grandmas for rent, event planners, dog walkers, personal chefs, wombs for rent, love coaches, wantologists, mourners for hire, closet organizers, interactive motivators at parties, potty trainers, thumb-sucking specialists, nameologists, dating service checkers, and so much more.

Anyone interested in sociology or American culture will find this book entertaining and at times almost unbelievable--our world has changed so much. It made me think about which changes were helpful, which not so helpful, and how to decide, questions couples profiled in the book also struggle with.

Recommended.
****
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and a Little Disturbing, March 3, 2012
By 
Book Fanatic (Houston, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times (Hardcover)
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This is not a practical book and it's not a self-help book. It's a social science book that makes you think about a part of our lives and our culture that is undergoing a shift. It's topic is how we are increasingly outsourcing parts of our lives by paying others to do things that are not traditionally purchased in the market. Things that used to be done by ourselves, our family, or our community. It's a thoughtful and well-written book on a topic that is of some importance to the quality of our lives.

At first I regretted selecting it because it seemed like it was written to appeal mainly to women (and I'm a man). The first chapter was about paying a "love coach" and online dating, followed by wedding planning, couples therapy, surrogate mothers, etc. However, it eventually touched on parenting, friendship, end of life care, and other things that I found interesting. It is still more oriented around roles that women play and so if you are a guy's guy you might want to skip it.

Many people can't afford to buy these services but many people can and more are doing so. I find the trend into some of these areas disturbing. It's something to think about. The second half of the book really picked up for me and I ended up being glad I read it. I recommend it with the caveat to men above.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A land without community, March 7, 2012
By 
Malfoyfan "Cath" (Valley Village, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times (Hardcover)
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It's hard to imagine a world without things like wedding planners, Match.com, caregiver services for the elderly, wombs for rent - all these things are the subject of Arlie Russell Hochschild's The Outsourced Self. Modern Americans are so used to hiring people to do the things that used to be taken care of by family members or the community at large that we probably don't even give them much thought. Hochschild brings these sociological issues together brilliantly in this book and gives her readers a lot to chew on. She contrasts the way life was around 1900-1920 with today's world, citing the fact that things that were once "intuitive or ordinary" such as naming a child, planning a wedding, or even figuring what to want, now require the services of paid experts. Elderly people were taken in by relatives; if a couple couldn't conceive they adopted or remained childless. Now, as Hochschild explains, couples can go to India to hire a surrogate to carry their genetic child, a service that, depending on how you look at it, either benefits the poor women who are recruited to be the surrogates or exploits them (alternating chapters describe the experience from the point of view of the prospective parents and the woman whose womb is to be rented). The elderly can be cared for by paid caregivers in the home or can go to a variety of assisted living accomodations. We used to date and marry whoever lived closest; now we can go all over the virtual world to find a mate. Are we better off? The results are decidedly mixed.

Hochschild doesn't just observe, she immerses herself in the market economy by both participating in the market frontier and by interviewing others who are venturing out into it. Her participation becomes personal when her elderly aunt Elizabeth becomes infirm and needs help to continue living on a remote farm.

I devoured this book; it's the kind of sociological study that fascinates me, and since my family is currently looking into alternatives for caring for my elderly mother at home, it was timely reading for me as well. Hochschild is a good writer for this type of book - she keeps on topic, is clear and concise in laying out the issues and describing her findings, but is never dull or dry. There's emotional as well as intellectual content. She credits her husband Adam with helping her liberate her personal voice from a more academic one, and it makes all the difference in the reading.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in trends in American culture. It's entertaining as well as eye-opening.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars May be relevant . . .if you are part of the 2%, July 28, 2013
By 
Pouletfoulet (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
If you are part of the 2% and have outsourced your life but are miserable, then you should read this. The common thread was that all of the subjects had money. How does this book even remotely begin to apply to a single mother working two jobs who needs to outsource part of her traditional motherly duties as a matter of simple survival (e.g. child taken care of by a paid babysitter so mommy can earn a living making more money than she pays the babysitter).

The book also contains outdated information. For example, the maligned "Family 360" program that the wealthy Minnesota CEO father and family were participating in (remember the index cards), is not active. Indeed, the website has not been updated since 2004 and the Contact page leads to a Go Daddy landing page offering the site for sale. By all indications, the author wrote this book over the course of 8 years. In today's busy (outsourced) world, that is an eternity.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dating, wedding planning, funerals...same idea rehashed, May 2, 2012
This review is from: The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times (Hardcover)
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Perhaps I was expecting too much from this book but from my perspective, it fell short. The author started out strong with clear and compelling examples of dating, elderly care and other pertinent "outsourced" needs. Unfortunately, the book rapidly seemed to become redundant. Yes, dating and wedding planning are quite different but also much the same. Ditto for birthing, naming and other related services. In fact, many of these functions have been outsourced for years without the benefit of technology (think Match-makers, wet nurses etc).

While the interviews provide some interesting details into the thought process behind the decision to outsource what has often been considered an intimate part of one's life, it fails to fully appreciate the cutting edge of technology and the full potential of where this is/could go in the future. It also seemed to limit the idea of intimacy to family relationships rather than the many other possible interpretations; in fact, the entire concept of social media could transform the general idea behind what is even considered intimate in the near future when machines know us more than peers or coworkers.

All in all, a somewhat interesting but non-impactful glimpse into a limited area of outsourced self.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dollars for the Village Heritage, May 10, 2012
This review is from: The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times (Hardcover)
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Over half of adult Americans live in a different state than their parents. We don't have the intergenerational links that made village life possible in the past. Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild sees this as a distinct loss, though not an unqualified one. The problem is, our needs for connection, aid, and nurturance don't go away just because we leave the homestead. So we turn to the marketplace to fill the holes in our spirits.

Hochschild follows the arc of how humans form bonds, from courtship and marriage, to starting and raising a family, running a home, nursing the sick, and burying the dead. She combines interviews with a range of people who have paid money for these formerly intimate services, with statistics and social research. Then she clinches the sale with stories of trying to find market help for her maiden aunt in New England, from her home in California.

Nor does Hochschild reflexively assume the commodification of our community needs is a bad thing, as some activists might. Your therapist, for instance, probably keeps abreast of new developments in psychology in a way village elders, witch doctors, or ministers can't. Your marriage planner can spend time on bouquets and caterers that you, with a full-time job, can't. Your mother's nursing home... well. Enough said.

But for all that, we lose something when we trust our inmost secrets and needs to someone who wants to get paid. We depersonalize very powerful moments (Hochschild's description of surrogacy in India strikes a particularly chilling note). And when we run out of money, or the person we pay moves on, we lose the network they offered us. That's to say nothing of people who can't afford to hire professional carers in the first place.

Hochschild examines the changes the market has imposed on our lives, not as she thinks they should be-- though she doesn't blush to admit she has an opinion-- but as they are. And what she finds should set us to thinking about what we value. If money can buy us everything the old village commons gave us for free, should we care that it lacks any sense of shared heritage? Good question. You'll have to make up your own mind on the answer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine book about privacy (and the lack of it) during these market-oriented times, May 4, 2012
By 
Barb Caffrey "writer-for-hire" (In a Midwest State (of mind), USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times (Hardcover)
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Arlie Russell Hochschild's THE OUTSOURCED SELF is the best book I've ever read about the erosion of what used to be considered "private life" in the United States (or really, anywhere in the Western world). Hochschild's premise is that as wedding planners, "wantologists," and life coaches proliferate, it gets harder and harder for ordinary people to value other ordinary, flawed human beings doing any of those particular jobs. (By the way, a "wantologist" is a specific sort of psychologist who specializes in figuring out what a person really wants rather than what he or she says he wants.)

Over time, Hochschild points out, there have been shifts in the language. Friends taking care of friends is now sometimes called "lay care" as opposed to the professional care you could get if you wanted to pay for it (and the market now believes that if you can pay for it, you should, so if you aren't, there's something wrong with you -- one of those oddly circular thought patterns that human beings should be able to break, but for whatever reason, just can't). People who don't use online dating services are "dating in the wild." And those who'd rather plan their own weddings are seen simply as amateurs, and are mostly dismissed.

So in such a culture, where can you draw the line in order to save anything to be simply yourselves? This is another of Hochschild's premises -- and where to draw that line seems as slippery and elusive as it can possibly be, especially considering how these market-oriented services (like e-Harmony.com) have managed to make big money by convincing people that these services are not only needed, but are highly desirable -- so once again, if you'd rather date the old-fashioned way (by meeting your spouse through friends, say), there must be something wrong with you.

I enjoyed THE OUTSOURCED SELF very much because it's an important and necessary book, one that should be read by as many people as possible. Because sometimes, societal assumptions must be challenged -- and Hochschild's writing does this brilliantly.

Four stars, highly recommended.

Barb Caffrey
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The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times
The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times by Arlie Russell Hochschild (Hardcover - May 8, 2012)
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