Emotional labour and the living personality at work: Labour power, materialist subjectivity and the dialogical self
journal contributionposted on 20.09.2013, 10:55 by Paul A. Brook
This article builds on Hochschild's primary understanding of emotional labour, as an aspect of labour power and sold for a wage, to develop a materialist theory of labour subjectivity from within the Marxist tradition that deepens and extends labour process analysis. It argues that the physical, intellectual and emotional aspects of labour power comprise a dynamic, inter-dependent complex – Marx's living personality at work – and that emotional effort is not a discrete, exceptional register of the self. A theory of the subjective–collective experience of labour power is then developed that commences with Vygotsky's concept of the dynamic unity of thought-speech-action in order to theorise the inter-relationship between labour activity and consciousness. This is then integrated with Bakhtin's materialist conception of emotion as the volitional tone of all labour activity and Vološinov's dialogical concept of speech, as contradictory consciousness turned outwards. Thus, workplace relations comprise routine dialogical contests between individual-collective workers and management over the meaning and purpose of employees' ideas, feelings and behaviour. The subjective–collective experience of labour power, therefore, is characterised as the dialogical self, constituted by an active presence in the labour process' contradictory, antagonistic relations.