Our search for answers to these questions leads to three sep­arate but equally relevant discourses: one concerning labor, one concerning display, and one concerning emotion.

Those who discuss labor often comment that nowadays most jobs call for a capacity to deal with people rather than with things, for more interpersonal skills and fewer mechan­ical skills. In The Coming of Post-Industrial Society {1973), Dan­iel Bell argues that the growth of the service sector means that “communication” and “encounter”—“the response of ego to alter and back” —is the central work relationship to­day.* As he puts it, “The fact that individuals now talk to other individuals, rather than interact with a machine, is the fundamental fact about work in the post-industrial society.”

* Jobs that Bell includes in the service sector are those in transportation and utilities, distribution and trade, finance and insurance, professional and business services, jobs deriving from demands for leisure activities (recreation and travel), and jobs that deal with communal services (health, education, and government). Only some of these service-sector jobs call for much emotion management.

Critics of labor studies, such as Harry Braverman in Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974), point out a continual subdivi­sion of work in many branches of the economy. Complex tasks in which a craftsman used to take pride are divided into simpler, more repetitive segments, each more boring and less well paid than the original job. Work is deskilled and the worker belittled. But celebrants and critics alike have not inspected at close hand or with a social-psychological eye what it is that “people jobs” actually require of workers. They have not inquired into the actual nature of this labor. Some do not know exactly what, in the case of emotional labor, becomes deskilled.

A second discourse, closer to the person and more remote from the overall organization of work, concerns the display of feeling. The works of Erving Goffman introduce us to the many minor traffic rules of face-to-face interaction, as they emerge at a card game, in an elevator, on the street, or at the dining table of an insane asylum. He prevents us from dis­missing the small as trivial by showing how small rules, transgressions, and punishments add up to form the longer strips of experience we call “work.” At the same time, it is hard to use Goffman’s focus to explain why companies train flight attendants in smiling, or how emotional tone is super­vised, or what profit is ultimately tied to emotional labor. It is hard, in other words, to draw on this discourse alone and see how “display work” fits into the larger scheme of things.

The third discourse takes place in a quiet side street of American social science; it deals with the timeless issues of what an emotion is and how we can manage it. The answers offered by various theorists are reviewed in Appendix A. My own best attempts to answer the questions most pertinent to this book are woven into the exposition in Chapters Two and Three, where they form a foundation for the rest.

To uncover the heart of emotional labor, to understand what it takes to do it and what it does to people, I have drawn on elements from all three discourses. Certain events in eco­nomic history cannot be fully understood unless we pay at­tention to the filigreed patterns of feeling and their manage­ment because the details of these patterns are an important part of what many men and women do for a living.

Because such different traditions are joined here, my in­quiry will have a different relevance for different readers. Perhaps it will be most relevant for those who do the work it describes—the flight attendants. But most of us have jobs that require some handling of other people’s feelings and our own, and in this sense we are all partly flight attendants. The secretary who creates a cheerful office that announces her company as “friendly and dependable” and her boss as “up-and-coming,” the waitress or waiter who creates an “at­mosphere of pleasant dining,” the tour guide or hotel recep­tionist who makes us feel welcome, the social worker whose look of solicitous concern makes the client feel cared for, the salesman who creates the sense of a “hot commodity,” the bill collector who inspires fear, the funeral parlor director who makes the bereaved feel understood, the minister who cre­ates a sense of protective outreach but even-handed warmth — all of them must confront in some way or another the requirements of emotional labor.

Emotional labor does not observe conventional distinctions between types of jobs. By my estimate, roughly one-third of American workers today have jobs that subject them to sub­stantial demands for emotional labor. Moreover, of all women working, roughly one-half have jobs that call for emotional labor. (See Chapter Eight and Appendix C.) Thus this in­quiry has special relevance for women, and it probably also describes more of their experience. As traditionally more ac­complished managers of feeling in private life, women more than men have put emotional labor on the market, and they know more about its personal costs.

This inquiry might at first seem relevant only to workers living under capitalism, but the engineering of a managed heart is not unknown to socialism; the enthusiastic “hero of labor” bears the emotional standard for the socialist state as much as the Flight Attendant of the Year does for the capi­talist airline industry. Any functioning society makes effec­tive use of its members’ emotional labor. We do not think twice about the use of feeling in the theater, or in psycho­therapy, or in forms of group life that we admire. It is when we come to speak of the exploitation of the bottom by the top in any society that we become morally concerned. In any sys­tem, exploitation depends on the actual distribution of many kinds of profits —money, authority, status, honor, well-being. It is not emotional labor itself, therefore, but the underlying system of recompense that raises the question of what the cost of it is.