Arlie Russell Hochschild

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Arlie Russel Hochschild (1940–) is a sociologist primarily concerned with emotions and feelings and how they affect interactions in various social settings and circumstances, such as within the family, the workplace, as well as throughout the overall economy and society. This includes feminist elements, such as the micro-perspectives of women in the workplace and how their feelings themselves were being commodified as emotional labor. Hochschild grew up in Maryland, but eventually moved to the University of California Berkeley where she acquired her Masters and Ph.D in sociology. Afterwards, she started working as full-time faculty there, through the American Sociological Association, writing books about her work on feminist perspectives.[1]

Managing feeling[edit]

Hochschild's work primarily centered around the nature of interaction, not just in the actions that we take, but the emotions that we feel during and through an interaction. Her primary foundation for her work rested in the observation that 'deep acting', actual feeling of feelings, was not simply a natural occurrence in interaction and behavior, but actually also a learned set of reactions determined from outward interference.

Surface acting[edit]

Surface acting is the outward appearance of a feeling, designed to convince an audience that the person is feeling and acting in a certain way contrary to their actual psychological state. Seen in areas of social life such as theater and movies, this type of acting is acknowledged and dismissed, for the suspension of disbelief of the facade of theater. We know that they are actors, therefore give forgiveness to their surface acting as we do not hold the expectation that they must be feeling that particular emotion in the first place. Rather, we consider the surface acting, the superficial appearance of emotion, as sufficient for accepting their work as an actor. In addition, they may be proficient at exhibiting that feeling, but regardless, in that context it is still understood to be surface acting, a facade that everyone temporarily agrees is deception for the sake of the event.[2]

Deep acting[edit]

Deep acting, on the other hand, is the nature of an interaction or situation at which one does not simply outwardly show an emotion, but also experiences the appropriate emotion itself. One way of deep acting is to psych oneself up artificially, 'telling onself' to feel that feeling. A person, no doubt, has experienced a position in which they try to consciously convince themselves to feel an emotion for the sake of an interaction or situation. This is one form of deep acting that is slightly superficial, where no doubt the feeling itself is trying to be felt, but is ultimately constructed from pure effort.

The other form of deep acting lies in the unconscious connection to learned situations, calling back to memories in which a feeling was associated with it to apply that memory to the appropriate interaction or situation. This idea rests on the foundation that feeling itself is an object, and treated as such. A feeling is associated with a situation, and that situation can be recalled to invoke the feeling associated with it. One cannot understand this feeling, truly, unless they actually experience said feeling. Finally, the memory is not simply called up, but treated as an ongoing simile to the interaction happening in from of the individual. This "as if" preposition is a tool, also used to demonstrate and justify the calling of the feeling used in the situation.[3]

The practice of deep acting[edit]

In private situations of our lives, deep acting is used constantly through our interactions. Whether it be an acknowledgement that a feeling isn't felt in response to a tragic event, or the acknowledgement of a feeling that is inordinately positive in the face of another, we catch ourselves when we experience feelings and emotions that we don't expect ourselves to have. Therefore, we use deep acting to try to account for this discrepancy, to put ourselves back in line, so to speak, to start acting appropriately again.

In the private sphere of institutions, however, this happens in a different form. Institutions too play a role in how we shape our emotional responses to things presented. However, unlike our private lives, institutional interactions within have higher stakes relationships, namely the function of your employment. Especially social jobs, such as medicinal care, managerial work, or education, all have additional definitions of acceptability on top of their already assigned technical work. Not only is an airline flight attendant, Hochschild's favorite example, supposed to serve you refreshments and take your trash from you, but they are also meant to look pleasant and provide a positive experience for your flight. In essence, they are required to practice deep acting in order to do their job correctly.[4]

Feeling rules[edit]

In the context of deep and surface acting, it's easy to say that there are situations in our lives where we feel that our emotions aren't appropriate to the situation. But can we attribute this to a societal level? Hochschild says yes, giving a few explanations as to why that answer is appropriate. One major part of her assessment is the focus at which societal sanctioning exists for certain social groups over others. She postulated that middle-class, Protestants, and women all experience relatively more emotional sanctioning than men, Catholics, and lower class people. Her explanations notwithstanding, she notes that certain social groups' feelings are enforced more strongly than other social groups.

Consider that people only point out a violation in emotions. No one takes the time and effort to point out a 'correct' emotion, only when their perspective believes that the emotional yardstick has been violated, e.g. "Why do you feel depressed? You just won the lottery!" In addition to this questioning of emotion, there is also enforcement in the should-experience scenario, where it is pointed out, "Hey, you should be happy! I did what you asked me to do." Most sanctions such as these are lighthearted, with a few exceptions, but are otherwise still sanctions for the appropriateness that one should feel. Notably, a constant pressure to feel a certain way when one cannot successfully deep act in that way can cause further anxiety, thus making it difficult to conform to these feeling rules in the first place. The stronger that feelings are sanctioned to a person, the more anxiety it can cause, looping back and causing more sanctions. Thus, it is more favorable for one to simply hide one's emotions and deep act to the furthest extent to move past the sanction.

There are two vital parts of social life that one must understand to understand these feeling rules. The first one lies in the acknowledgement of pain avoidance, where one wants to feel a certain way to remove oneself from feeling depressed. The second is advantage seeking, in which a person will want to conform to a certain emotion, perhaps to gain the favor of the people around them, or to place the correct kind of attention on them. The combination of inward and outward sanctioning result in a person that has a relatively strict set of feeling rules correlated to the amount of sanctioning given, internalizing this abstract 'yardstick' and attempting to conform to the interactions taking place. Understanding the discordant happening of application of feelings is vital to understanding Hochschild's feminist thought.[5]

Gender, status, and feeling[edit]

Hochschild acknowledges that both men and women do emotion work. That is a clear point that is not up for contention, and her entire study is not about how men don't do it at all. Rather, her study is instead about the disproportion of use and importance of emotion work and emotional labor between female and male.

Cause of systemic inequality[edit]

There are four aspects of emotion work that are disproportionately used by women that must be noted. The first is that women, on average, simply have less money to be able to use in order to attain a successful business or career. As a result, women instead use emotion work and deep acting in place of the financial deficiency, using it as a tool to gain the upper hand in situations where they wouldn't usually have bargaining power. The second is that, while emotion work is used by both men and women, the way that it is used in both men and women are starkly different. While men are expected to deep act in accordance with mastering fear and vulnerability, acting assertive and dominant, women are expected to master anger and aggression, acting 'nice' and pleasant.

This leads into the third aspect of emotion work, in that because the emphasis of deep acting for women are being 'nice' and 'pleasant', e.g. deferring, they are also more likely to be subject to opposing assertiveness taking advantage of their deference, Hochschild labeling this "status shield weakening". Essentially, because they are expected to be more respectful relative to men, they also experience interactions where they are the recipient of potential verbal abuse and commands compared to men. The fourth and final aspect of this inequality is that certain emotion rules are subject to different commercialized uses. Women tend to act more defensively, causing their emotion work to be subject to commercial exploitation, while men, who are socialized to be assertive and self-supporting, are more in line to make negotiations to these companies they work for, in contrast to the emotional stagnation that women experience.[6]

Women as emotional managers[edit]

Its no secret that job representation differs based on gender.[7] While women felt familiar with the concept, only recently have people put a name to that concept and truly understood it.[8] Because women are more likely to treat emotions as a commodity or tool in it of itself, they find themselves in economic positions where that sort of emotional labor is expected of them. Despite the studies showing that women tend to adapt to the needs of others more than men, it fails to account for why. Hochschild reasons that the social structures of today has conditioned women to be this way, and rejects the assumption that women are 'innately' more inclined towards that type of thought.

Ivan Illich calls this labor, "shadow labor", labor that happens but is tweaked and specialized to the point where it looks effortless at first glance. It is designed not to be noticed as effort, but simply as an innate recognition in someone else. Women are more expected to perform this type of labor in comparison to men, and even though both perform emotional labor, the fundamental difference is the scope that it is practiced: women from outside the power sphere and men from within. For a woman in this type of inequality, it is in their best interest not to expose their labor in this way. If it were generally known that the supposed 'innate' emotion work that women are capable of doing is in actuality manufactured from years of practice, the legitimacy of emotions from women in any sphere would denigrate.

There are two ways that a lower-class person's feelings can be dismissed due to their position in society. One is that they are treated as legitimate but not as widely relevant or important, and the other is that they are irrational and therefore dismissible. Because women have a higher expectation to treat emotions as socially important, whether its acknowledged or not, they also have less capability to act on their own accord, to be seen as having control over their emotions means that they can easily be labeled as not in control when the deep acting does not match the feelings rules.

This summary cannot do her entire book justice, but this is the foundation of Hochschild's studies about gender inequality, at least in the US, and how it can translate to the wage gap and other economic inequalities. This type of cultural inequity is not something that can be solved legislatively, but only by societal understanding and acceptance.[9]

References[edit]