What kinds of behavior does our culture encourage? The question is ever in style, and usually a pat and misleading answer is on the tongue of every commentator. Greed, bellicosity, phoniness, racism, sexism, and speciesism come immediately to their minds. However, the question inevitably is worthy of a more meaningful analysis. Our culture has accomplished much, and the system it both fosters and benefits from continues to grind on. These books focus on the how and why.
The Managed Heart, an attempt to show that the upwardly mobile stewardess is just as oppressed as an eight-yearold factory worker of the last century is so unfocused and poorly developed that some of the valid points become lost. Close contact with the public, always difficult, is worse when one’s behavior is relentlessly scrutinized by superiors, and can be virtually impossible now that standards of deportment have all but vanished. Though never approaching the ideal, public behavior began to disintegrate markedly when the liberal establishment adopted the radical view that codes of conduct based on good taste and consideration for others were repressive and hypocritical. As a result, many employees in service industries squeezed by intense competition must respond to all manner of abuse with fraudulent good humor and indulgence—or lose their jobs. That female flight attendants suffer more than most from this handiwork is both unfair and ironic. To listen to a leftist author complain about this result, though, is a little like listening to the proverbial boy who murdered his parents complain he is an orphan.
Like everything from defense to herpes to higher taxes, “emotion work,” as Mrs. Hochschild ungrammatically calls it, is a “woman’s issue.” Though men now pass out magazines on airplanes and mix Bloody Marys, the passengers respond to them differently than they do to the female counterparts, rendering the job different also, according to the author. The male attendants consequently lord their elevated status over the women. The exceptions, of course, are the homosexual stewards, who get a couple of big plugs in this book, including, ‘the gay stewards are great,’ says one female. “‘If Pan Am had any sense, it wouldprefer to hire them.”‘ But the proposal is so fraught with affirmative action problems—especially if the gay males are black—that it is probably best left alone.
Mrs. Hochschild is a Berkeley sociologist who is best known for her “more feminist than thou” posturing in Mother Jones. The woman who is ready to go to war (nonnuclear, of course) over her dubious findings that men watch more television than women claims in The Managed Heart that company-forced smiles lead to emotional burnout and identity crises. It is not clear what forms these problems take or even whether they are in fact caused by self-control in the face of adversity. There is one reference to “the considerable medical problems of flight attendants,” but whether the culprit is reluctant smiling or jet lag is never probed. Perhaps one problem causing conflict is that people seem to enter the profession in spite of the work rather than because of it. “We were flying for money, men, adventure, travel,” says one stewardess—for every reason, that is, except saving lives during a crash landing.
There are some revealing insights into airline policy and attitudes that customers might appreciate knowing. For example, pregnant women, mothers, small children, and the elderly are all considered pariahs by flight attendants and their trainers to the point where these groups are mocked in Halloween skits. Naturally, the liberal author does not come to the defense of any of them, nor is she outraged by the employees’ stated preference for businessmen and wealthy passengers.
In a free and open economy like ours, where no one is forced to work, not even for money, it is difficult to sympathize with these employees. Some are in the wrong field and should get out. Others haven’t yet learned that life is a series of trade-offs and that certain unpleasant obligations must inevitably be endured. Still, it is clear that employees, customers, and businesses all take advantage of each other. A more interesting essay would have examined what courtesies and obligations are morally required of these three groups given that, in our new service-oriented economy, tact, friendliness, and tolerance are marketed, purchasable commodities.
Both The Managed Heart and The Tactical Uses of Passion examine how culture affects our acceptance and use of emotion. F. G. Bailey’s essay “on power, reason, and reality,” though, examines how one can use the culture’s prescribed emotions properly to instigate action. Bailey’s work is both a “how-to” and a “what-is” book, similar to something that can be found in rhetoric or communications classes. The book’s three sections examine displays of emotion and what they mean, how rhetorical devices might best employ the passions, and what the rules are for using them. As a bonus, Bailey, an anthropologist at the University of California at San Diego, takes deadly aim at university faculty committee members, a tact especially pleasurable for those who believe that higher education is going to the dogs.
That reason rules the world less than we think is not an original idea. But Bailey’s object is “to understand movement between the use of reason and the use of passion.” The key lies in the examination of codes, selves, and the types of membership (especially in terms of relative power) of various committees and political groups. The workings of the culture on an individual’s methods of persuasion and their effectiveness are what interest Bailey. It is the superficial that engages him, not the unrevealed. To argue with him on a deeper level is a trap. He does not know what this or that tactic unearths about the deep, dark psyche, and it does not matter.
His examples—coming from postGandhi India, local California politics, and even John le Carré—are interesting in their own right, but do not always support his contentions well. Mercifully, the examples tend to be remote, unlikely to arouse a reader’s passions and so blind him to what the author is explaining. The one brief deviation, naturally, seems inaccurate and unfair. The reference is to “pseudo-cerebral devices” which he calls “verbal sleight of hand.” They are used to establish consensus seemingly by reason but really by assertion, according to Bailey. The author refers to a newspaper article which mentions the “vigorous advocacy of public funds in support of ‘private’ schools.” Bailey identifies this statement as a ruse because “the intended beneficiary is in fact parochial schools.” Wrong. The real beneficiaries are private schools; parochial schools are a part of that category. (As long as we’re getting passionate on the matter, the real beneficiaries are the students, their parents, society, and the world.) In any case, if the word is misleading, blame the press, not the measure’s proponents or the underlying philosophy.
The benefit of the book is the acknowledgment that reason has been overrated and emotion underappreciated. Emotion, after all, is what fires people to act. The Tactical Uses of Passion suggests which combinations of rhetoric and emotion persuade and which do not. Those of us whose minds are made up on practically every important issue had better get busy and use it.