The Outsourced Self

Monday, May 14, 2012

Professor emerita of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley Arlie Hochschild continues her exploration of the intersection of the home and the market in her new book, The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times.


Arlie Hochschild

Comments [12]

Jack from New York City

I heard the segment on outsourcing private lives and wanted to call in but I was in my car driving back from a long weekend that I took for reasons that may be clear in a moment--I needed some solitude.

I am a para-sexual. As a provider group, we are pretty much under the radar but there is work out there because of demand. We service busy, two-career, usually child-free households in the city; not so much anywhere but New York and San Francisco. Basically, we provide pre-coital services like atmospherics, conversation, and fore-play as one partner prepares for the arrival of his/her significant other and post-coital services such as clean-up, conversation, quiet time, even cuddling (not many calls for that after sex cigarette these days but a real demand for chat about the economy, the election coming up, etc.) after sex as one partner or the other needs to get to the office or back on the computer.

Entry level work, the easiest to train for is, as you'd guess, for gay couples, since there's only one set of physical skills to master. For heterosexual couples, bisexual workers fare best; the learning curve for them is not quite as steep. Pay is not bad, since clients tend toward the 1% not the 99% but there are exceptions. As a "profession," we generally avoid working for "hookups" and most of our clients are repeat callers; some have a para-sexual on retainer, but those are not as common as we would like.

May. 14 2012 01:25 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

So happy to hear someone has written a book about this topic!

Life has become a satire, in many respects - people obsessively documenting and releasing reality TV shows/blogs/tweets/posts/photos about the minutia of their lives, yet unlike people who used to do these things as a profession (journalists, documentary filmmakers or photographers, writers) these "outsourced selves" never attempt to make intellectual or psychological connections between what they are sharing, and greater society or the world at large.

Real writers and artists have a goal of getting their audience to think, to expanding our perspective, and sometimes to act to change something - as opposed to rehashing daily events with no contemplation, and zero attempt at intellectual rigor. We are all becoming dumber and dumber because of all this outsourcing of the self.

May. 14 2012 11:54 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Wow. Rich folks' dilemmas. Can't relate.

May. 14 2012 11:48 AM
Matthea Harvey from Brooklyn


Sister tries out her tantrum. It requires a hamster and ends with a trill and five fading sobs. Auntie teeters towards the mantelpiece. Dad is on the faux-phone with a friend. No one's speaking to him because last time he kept cornering the client for unscripted fatherly chats. Mom snips at a streamer with her pinking shears. Maybe this time it'll be a birthday. When the buzzer finally goes off, it's one last shot for Auntie. They grab the props from the basket by the door—the sweater knitted just far enough that it could be for anybody of any size, a broken china dog to blame on Brother. They leave Monopoly behind because someone's stolen all the little green houses, leaving only the red hotels. In the van, they read the girl's file, memorize their personalities. Grandma's trying dementia this time around so there's nothing new she needs to know. The front door opens. The family swarms the orphan.

(from Modern Life)

May. 14 2012 11:48 AM
jmurphy from long island

another good book on this subject is michael sandel who had an article in the atlantic recently.

i think this trend is based on the depersonalization provided by technology, as well as polarization provided by the media of agreement (where we follow only who we agree with). All has contributed to us forgetting how to relate along the lines of commonality we all have.

May. 14 2012 11:46 AM
Francisco from Orange County

It's like Yelp but for parents looking for services from a parent perspective:

May. 14 2012 11:45 AM
Foxessa from NYC

These are merely different terms for servants and employers.

As the jobs that supported the public safety net and community services have disappeared, we either are part of the classes that have good working positions or we don't. More of us don't, more and more of us don't. So we're going back to what it was like in the pre-WWI eras -- going into service, except most of still live out -- but not necessarily.

My spouse just returned from a gig during which he was put up in the guest house on the estate of a billionaire. The number of people who live in, and the even larger number of people employed on the 'come in' basis, including personal trainers, is an enormous staff.

May. 14 2012 11:44 AM
Alex from Astoria

Part of me is really concerned about the extension of market logic into interpersonal relationships - and I see it happening ing my own interactions as I evaluate whether this friendship is going to help me along in my career or provide me with a new collaborator.

Part of me thinks is a little more cynical-pragmatic and says this is inevitable and we might as well embrace it - our personality traits are reified commodities to be sold and this is the natural result of the "service economy" the last guest advocated. Irrational emotions are a liability in an increasingly rationalized advanced capitalist society.

May. 14 2012 11:44 AM
John A.

When I see that subtitle "Intimate Life in Market Times", all I can think of are those bloggers (intimate life) who suddenly and without warning hold up a product and start raving about it (market times) in hopes of becoming a media star.

May. 14 2012 11:41 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

This is great! I've been having an ongoing argument/debate with a friend for years about where our society is heading and he can only see good, whereas I see a sad decline in so many realms.

There are no more limits (think of how 20 or 30 years ago people were tsk-tsking the ostentatiousness of weddings, but they only got worse & worse), and most people -- at least on the coasts -- have lost their perspective of how much more modestly people lived only a generation or 2 ago.

It's all about "lifestyle" now: life = lifestyle, but where are the inner lives?

May. 14 2012 11:40 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

I love the follow to the last show “rent a slave”
says Mr. Conard. LOL

May. 14 2012 11:38 AM

Can you invite the author to make a connection between this development and the feminist logic of the 'personal is political'? There might be perverse story of unintended consequence there too... thanks


May. 14 2012 11:38 AM

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