Est immense quand tu souris
Et quand tu ris je ris aussi
Tu aimes tellement la vie
Quel est donc ce froid
Que l'on sent en toi?
Arlie Hochschild begins her book, The Managed Heart (1983), by contrasting two stories. One is a story in Capital, about a boy in a wallpaper factory who works at a machine, 16 hours a day. The other is of a training session for Delta stewardesses, who are instructed to ‘really smile” because a smile is your ‘asset’. This was the eighties, and this is what stewardesses did. One of the stewardesses told Hochschild, “Sometimes I come off a long trip in a state of utter exhaustion, but I find I can’t relax. I giggle a lot, I chatter, I call friends. It’s as if I can’t release myself from an artificially created elation that has kept me ‘up’ on the trip. I hope to be able to come down from it better as I get better at the job.”
Hochschild defined emotional labor this way:
“This labor requires one to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others – in this case, the sense of being cared for in a convivial and safe place. This kind of labor calls for a coordination of mind and feeling, and it sometimes draws on a source of self that we honor as deep and integral to our individuality.”
Marx, of course, knew – as did factory owners and blue book writers, as did Dickens and Mill and Hugo – that a vast injury was being done to the boy in the wallpaper factory. But how was one to translate that injury? What, to speak as a certain type of philosopher, was the harm, here? Lack of pay? Was the harm that the boy did not pocket the surplus value he created?
Marx gives many indications over the course of his work that the harm, here, is not really translatable into ‘assets’. In that way, the harm can’t be put in an account book, a double ledger of benefits and costs – that is, without losing sight of the fact that benefits and costs, which seem, to the economist, to be scientific bits of quantified information, only make the leap to the quantifiable through gross metaphysical mystifications.
It is interesting – even, from my viewpoint, telling – that Hochschild’s term ‘emotional labor’ was gradually processed, in the literature, into ‘emotional management’. While the two terms may seem, at first glance, to be synonymous, one – emotional labor – actually attributes to the emotional a real position in the social world, while the other – emotional management – retreats to the traditional notion that emotion is a kind of savage thing, outside of which stands control. At the same time, sociologists soon started pointing out that those successful ‘emotional managers’ expressed more satisfaction with their jobs. Sociologists, in the 80s and 90s, were taking the turn away from such fuzzy and oppositional concepts as alienation and towards more friendly and professionally successful ones as public and rational choice. Businesses do not hire you as a consultant unless you are with the program, of course.
Still, the question is posed: on what scale should we quantify the quantifier? If our stewardess finds herself giggling and chattering a lot, if she fills out the questionnaire about job satisfaction with happy faces, are we not talking about a woman who is not a ‘bitch’, but a fully self empowered gal, who might even find feminism to be a useful ‘accessory’.
Yet, of course, we could pull back a bit on the question, even from the quantificational view, of what this training in smiles brought her. In the early eighties, indeed, the Delta stewardess was riding high. I knew a few in New Orleans in 1983, around the time that Hochschild’s book came out, and they were, indeed, leading a lifestyle full of chatting and artificial highs – usually cocaine.
It was about that time that three satisfied stewardess even proposed buying Delta a jet, purely out of their satisfied hearts. This became a locus classicus of business management books about implementing a “collaborative culture” – to use William Schneider’s phrase in The Re-engineering Alternative: “In 1982, three stewardesses for Delta Airlines announced that they and other Delta employees were pledging nearly $1,000 each to buy a $30 million Boeing 767 jet for the airline. “We just wanted to say thanks for the way Delta has treated us,” one of the women explained. By December they had raised enough pledges to buy the 767. Seven thousand employees turned out at the Atlanta airport for the christening of the Spirit of Delta.” 
Schneider presents this as a model of the company as family. The two stewardesses I knew presented it as the model of company as blackmailer. Delta’s public announcement that the management had ‘nothing’ to do with this was, of course, nonsense – as in any ‘family’, who contributed and who didn’t was quickly known.
As anybody who has flown Delta in the last twenty years knows, the smile culture gave way, after de-regulation, to a more traditional herding the beasts into the slaughterhouse culture. Notoriously, Delta’s management ripped off the pension plans of their employees, which was supposedly accrued during all the days of happy flying. As Scheider says, “the collaborative culture springs from the family” – and Delta’s management proved to have modeled their family feelings on those of the famous painting by Goya, Saturn eating his children.
However, the question of what the ‘pay’ for emotional labor is – and how emotional labor is standardized as labor - forces us back, inevitably, to the fully social self, the one whose aches and ecstasies might not be things that come in separate units, to be weighed on Bentham’s pleasure/pain scales.
Okay, now, here’s my translation of the next sentences in the German Ideology. I’ve tried not to smooth out the almost agonizing structure of these sentences, which remind me of nothing so much as Laocoon in the toils of the snake:
That it thus becomes an “unbearable” ["unerträgliche"] power, that is to say, a power, against which one revolutionizes, is integral to the fact that it has produced the mass of mankind both as thoroughly propertyless [“eigentumslos"] and at the same time as in contradiction to a world of wealth and culture spread before them, which both presuppose a great increase of the force of production, a higher level of its development; on the other side, this development of the forces of production (with which already the empirical existence of persons is put on a world historical rather than local footing) is, as well, an absolutely necessary practical pre-supposition, because without it only lack is universalized, and thus with neediness also the struggle for necessities begins again and we have to reconstruct all the old shit [die ganze alte Scheiße sich herstellen müßte] – and because, furthermore, only with this universal development of the forces of production is a universal commerce of people posited; thus on the one side, the phenomenon of the “propertyless masses among all peoples is produced all at the same time (universal competition), each making themselves dependent on the overthrow of the other, and finally the world historical, empirically universal individuals replace the local ones.”
The complex that is built around “alienation” here goes through certain recognizable steps.
First, we have what I’d call the Frankenstein moment. This is the moment in which the people who are collaborating realize that somehow, without their choosing it, the division of labor has taken on a life of its own. This in itself is an important clue that alienation is unthinkable without division of labor of some kind: between men and women, between adults and children, etc. It appears again and again in Marx’s writing, every time giving us a sense of the social uncanny. The monster, it appears, is alive:
“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.”
Beautiful! And hideous. At the same time the system produces the most astonishing beauty – such refinement and cultivation [Bildung] as has never been seen before -- and a wretchedness, and evacuation of life, that has also never been seen before. This evacuation is described in two terms: of unbearability and of propertylessness. Unbearability is, Marx claims at this point, the condition without which the masses won’t revolutionize. In the sixties, when Marx was good and thoroughly Nietzschefied, this moment would give rise to doubts – is it a fact that the bourgeoisie, here, is the great producer, and the proletariat merely the reactive social body? If this were true, of course, it would truly put a spoke in the whole system – for the rising of the proletariat would only create the old filth, the old shit of fighting for survival.
I want to press more on that unbearability – Unertraglichkeit – in order to think clearly about the chains that the workers of the world “possess’. But not in this post.
The second moment has to do with located this unbearability in relation to the instantiation of universal history – the world market – in goods and labor that characterizes the modern system of production. Marx never takes back this insight. At the time he is writing the German ideology, very few business enterprises spanned the globe, and the logistics of manufacture, trade and communication are – in spite of his comments in the Communist Manifesto – only at the beginning of their irresistible rise. Certainly, the velocity with which silk moved from Canton to London was faster than the days when it had to go to Manila, then Acapulco, then across Mexico to Veracruz, then to Europe – or through Central Asia to Turkey, through Italy and up through Europe. Marx saw that already, branches of industry in one country would manufacture goods for sale in a far away country – as for example, Chinese ceramics, produced for the European and American market – and that there was a greatly increased commodity and money flow. Marx’s emphasis on this – even when explaining alienation – is another clue that alienation has to do with a vast and seemingly monstrous system that has arisen behind the backs of the worker. Before human beings become the subject of world history, their monster already is. Earlier revolutions against the unbearability of the system of production were as local as the system itself. The transatlantic revolutions might be said to be the first true revolutions - the French revolution, spread across Europe and fought out, in an unexpected way, in Santo Domingo, kept working in the liberation of Latin America and even, one could say, in the 1910 revolution that overthrew the Chinese Imperial court. Marx, in a famous 1881 letter to a Dutch socialist, Domela Nieuwenhuis, wrote: “The general demands of the French bourgeoisie laid down before 1789 were roughly just the same, mutatis mutandis as the first immediate demands of the proletariat are pretty uniformly to-day in all countries with capitalist production.”
In the German Ideology, the interweaving of the high level of the forces of production and their global scale leaves its impress on the chance of success of communism:
“Without this, 1, communism would be able to exist only as that of one locality; 2, the powers of commerce themselves could not have been developed yet as universal, and thus unbearable powers, they would have remained domestically-superstitiously “circumstances” ["Umstände"], and every expansion of commerce would negate local communism.”