In a social system animated by competition for property, the human personality was metamorphosed into a form of capital. Here it was rational to invest oneself only in properties that would produce the highest return. Personal feeling was a handicap since it distracted the individualfrom calculating his best interest and might pull him along economically counterproductive paths.

— Rousseau (Вermaris paraphrase)

When Jean-Jacques Rousseau observed that personality was becoming a form of capital he was writing about eighteenth – century Paris, long before there were stewardess training schools and long before the arts of bill collecting were stan­dardized and mass produced.1 If Rousseau could sign on as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines in the second half of the twentieth century, he would doubtless be interested in learn­ing just whose capital a worker’s feelings are and just who is putting this capital to work. He would certainly see that al­though the individual personality remains a “medium of competition,” the competition is no longer confined to indi­viduals. Institutional purposes are now tied to the workers’ psychological arts. It is not simply individuals who manage their feelings in order to do a job; whole organizations have entered the game. The emotion management that sustains the smile on Delta Airlines competes with the emotion man-

agement that upholds the smile on United and TWA.

What was once a private act of emotion management is sold now as labor in public-contact jobs. What was once a privately negotiated rule of feeling or display is now set by the company’s Standard Practices Division. Emotional ex­changes that were once idiosyncratic and escapable are now standardized and unavoidable. Exchanges that were rare in private life become common in commercial life. Thus a cus­tomer assumes a right to vent unmanaged hostility against a flight attendant who has no corresponding right—because she is paid, in part, to relinquish it. All in all, a private emo­tional system has been subordinated to commercial logic, and it has been changed by it.2

It does not take capitalism to turn feeling into a commod­ity or to turn our capacity for managing feeling into an in­strument. But capitalism has found a use for emotion man­agement, and so it has organized it more efficiently and pushed it further. And perhaps it does take a capitalist sort of incentive system to connect emotional labor to competi­tion and to go so far as to actually advertise a “sincere” smile, train workers to produce such a smile, supervise their pro­duction of it, and then forge a link between this activity and corporate profit. As the sticker on a TWA computer (facing the ticket agent) in the San Francisco Airport read: “When people like you, they like TWA too.” It takes considerable so­phistication for a company to make this into an ordinary, trivial thought for a worker to be urged to bear in mind.