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In critical defence of ‘emotional labour’

Brook, Paul (2009) In critical defence of ‘emotional labour’. employment & society, 23 (3). pp. 531-548. ISSN 0950-0170

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Abstract

Sharon Bolton’s comprehensive critique of Hochschild’s concept of ‘emotional labour’ is flawed by her misinterpretation of its primary form as an aspect of labour power. Consequently, she erroneously argues that emotional labour is commodified only when transformed into commercial service work. However, emotion workers experience commodification of their labour power as wage-labour, irrespective of the nature of their product. Bolton also argues that Hochschild’s notion of workers undergoing a ‘transmutation of feelings’ renders them ‘crippled actors’ in the grip of management control. Hochschild, however, theorizes transmutation as a contradictory and unstable condition albeit in an under-developed form. While Bolton correctly argues for a theory of emotion work that captures the complexity and contradictory nature of the emotional workplace, it is not necessary to reject the emotional labour concept. Rather, it needs to be more fully theorized and integrated within Labour Process Analysis.

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