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The Hungry Cowboy: Service and Community in a Neighborhood Restaurant Hardcover – February 17, 2009
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A behind-the-scenes look at the dyanamics of class, race, and economics in a suburban eatery
About the Author
Karla A. Erickson is assistant professor of sociology at Grinnell College. She is coeditor of Feminist Waves, Feminist Generations: Life Histories of a Movement. Her research has been published in Qualitative Sociology, Symbolic Interaction, Ethnography, and Space and Culture.
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Erickson's book raises a number of timely and important empirical and theoretical questions about the loss of community, the rise of service work and its consequences, the new meaning of consumption in our service society, as well as the costs to the self of jobs which require what sociologist Arlie Hochschild has termed "emotional labor." For instance, how do people create a sense of community and familiarity in a restaurant? What makes one restaurant feel warm and welcoming to customers? How do workers, the majority of whom are women, who are "paid to care," feel about the customers they serve? And finally, how does Americans' participation in the service economy either as customers or as workers transform their sense of an "authentic" self in relations with others? Erickson's research breaks new ground in studies of work by looking beyond the older model of management and employee, and considering instead the complicated dance of power in the triadic relationship between customer, worker, and manager. In her argument, it is the complex interactions among these three groups that produce ambience and sociability in the Hungry Cowboy.
This book is a must-read for books in the sociology of work, but also of general interest to anyone who has ever spent time in their own local family restaurant.