Wednesday , February 21 2024
How far are we are willing to go to hire others to live large parts of our lives for us?

Book Review: ‘The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times’ by Arlie Russell Rochschild

It’s not uncommon to hear market jargon in everyday life, these days. And everyone knows that more and more services are available for hire every day. But just how much of our everyday life are we willing to hire others to do for us?  What parts of our life do we keep for ourselves?

The Outsourced Self shows some extreme examples of how willing we are to let others live for us, as well as some more easily acceptable ones.

Probably, most of us would easily see how one might want a wedding planner. Weddings are often expensive and time-consuming things and even with a planner, a couple has plenty of opportunity to be involved.

Children’s birthday parties are a bit trickier. They have become big business, and as the author illustrates, children these days have high expectations and are not easy to entertain. There is not too much discussion of whose fault that is, and why very young children expect to be professionally entertained, but at least a birthday party planner working with parents does not seem too unusual.

Hiring someone to take care of an elderly parent or other relative is also understandable in modern times when people have to work, families are scattered over long distances, and sometimes people just need more care than a family member can give.

But then Arlie Russell Hochschild ventures into stranger service areas.

How about hiring a woman in India who is a professional surrogate to carry your child? This is not a matter of choosing a friend or family member to carry a child for you if you are unable and covering the expenses involved, but a case of paying someone in a foreign country to do it. Hochschild talks to couples and surrogates to explore why this happens.

Dating services are used by thousands of people, often very successfully, but would you pay large sums of money to a “love coach” to help you write a profile, pick a photo, decide how to get the best market value in  a mate and maximize your dating ROI?

Nanny services for working moms make sense, but how about hiring someone to potty train your child?

Would you choose a planner to arrange your proposal?

The book certainly raises questions as to how far is too far in outsourcing our lives and how we draw and redraw the boundaries. The lines are blurry and getting blurrier, it seems.

This is a very eye-opening book which will definitely make you think. The world is changing and we are changing with it. For thousands of years, shared experiences have kept human nature much the same, for better or worse. But if more an more of us outsource more and more of the more complicated stuff of our lives, how does that change us and those around us?

The answers remain unknown, but Hochschild gives us plenty of food for thought, in a well-written and researched book that will certainly engage and sometimes surprise the reader.

About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, Southern Crossroads: Georgia Bluesand Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.

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