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Sociology 3308: Sociology of Emotions - page 3 / 6





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'signal function.' It is hard to know for sure what is true about where we stand in the world. We continually guess. In this context of uncertainty, one important clue is how we feel. From feeling we discover our own apparent viewpoint on and relationship to the world. Feeling tells us 'what is out there from where I stand.'" (i.e. what is real, for example, why I’m not as upset as I thought I’d be.)

Hochschild’s definition draws elements from all of the above approaches. From the interactionists and social constructionists she explores what gets “done” to an emotion. From the organismic tradition is a sense of what is there, impermeable, to be “done to,” namely a biologically given sense related to both cognition and an orientation for action. Yet, what does and does not stand out as a signal presupposes certain culturally taken for granted ways of seeing and holding expectations about the world.

Emotional Labor and Emotion Management:

Hochschild says that such an interactionist conception of emotion points to a certain paradox: a feeling is what happens to us, yet it is also what we do to make it happen. Moreover, both of these are intrinsically tied up in our socio-political circumstances. Particularly important in this regard are issues of political economy (e.g. class/gender). For example, she points out that in the growing service sector of the modern economy, the emotional style of offering the service is part of the service itself. It is a commodity. Indeed, it is important to note that Hochschild's ideas arose largely out of her field research on service workers who do a great deal of "emotional labour," that is, the work of trying to feel the right feeling for the job. She contrasted the work of flight attendants, whose job is to be "nicer than natural," with the work of bill collectors, whose job is to be, if necessary, "nastier and natural," arguing that "these two occupations represent the toe and the heel of the growing service sector in the American economy." In her view, "most work falls somewhere between these two extremes."

We try to feel, but how can we try to feel? Hochschild argues that both the act of getting in touch with feeling and the act of trying to feel may become part of the process that makes the thing we get in touch with, or the thing we manage, into a feeling or emotion. In managing feeling, we contribute to the creation of it. In Hochschild's conception, emotional labor (a.k.a. “emotion management,” in a private setting) can thus be accomplished by two basic methods (some of which may actually involve formal training sessions, as in the airline industry). In what she calls "surface acting" we change feeling from the "outside in" by deceiving others. For example, we consciously alter outward expression of emotion in the service of altering our inner feelings. We do not simply change our expression; we change our expression in order to change our feeling (e.g. one of Hochschild's flight attendants stated: "if I pretend I'm feeling really up, sometimes I actually cheer up and feel friendly. The passenger responds to me as though I were friendly and then more of me responds back"). In Hochschild's second method, what she terms "deep acting," we change feeling from the "inside out" through self-deception. Here we change our feeling by altering something more than surface appearance. For example, we may alter our feelings by changing our bodily state (such as through taking deep breaths or ingesting drugs), by prompting ourselves (e.g. “Don’t let him get to you”), narrowing our mental focus to a


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