The American Dream   /   Summer 2013   /    Book Reviews

Turning Want into Wantology

John P. Hewitt

@NeONBRAND via Unsplash.

For over sixty years, sociologists, historians, psychoanalysts, and critics have constructed quasi-historical narratives depicting putative transformations of the self—from sincerity to authenticity, inner-direction to other-direction, character to personality, stable to mutable identity, or institutional to impulsive selves, not to mention therapeutic dependency, narcissism, or postmodernity. In this book, Arlie Russell Hochschild casts her sociological eye on the self and its vicissitudes in terms likely to have considerable appeal to contemporary readers. The marketplace has infiltrated intimate life, she argues, and transformed the self. Whereas people once performed the central and emotionally intimate tasks of living for themselves and with the aid of their families and communities— falling in love and marrying, managing their household and children, taking care of parents in their declining years—they now seek paid help in a market eager to provide it. In doing so they “outsource” the self, turning to conceptual and service entrepreneurs for their understandings of themselves and others, for the emotional labor that the maintenance of self and social relationships requires, and for the social affirmation and assurance on which the self hinges.

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