‘Better Than Your Mother’

Rachel Sherman

in Class Acts

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780520247819
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520939608 | DOI:
‘Better Than Your Mother’

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This chapter explores the defining elements of luxury service as they emerged implicitly and explicitly in interviews with guests and managers, in industry literature, and in ethnographic observation. These aspects include personalization; legitimation, anticipation, and resolution of guests' needs; unlimited available physical labor; and a deferential, sincere demeanor on the part of workers. Interactive luxury service entails more than the broadly conceived “emotional labor” or the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display that is sold for a wage. Instead, luxury is similar to intersubjective “recognition” which is defined as a response from the other which makes meaningful the feelings, actions, and intentions of the self. Luxury service entails recognizing a person's “acts, her feelings, her intentions, her existence, and her independence”. For many guests, luxury service is care, similar to the care that is beyond what the guests might expect from their mothers. But luxury service is also similar to the labor of another kind of reproductive worker: the domestic servant, who provides both physical labor and deference while lacking authority. In this chapter, the twin issues of care and subordination in the context of structural inequality are explored and examined. It also describes the organization of luxury service, illustrating how its production is divided among workers with different jobs and personal traits. In addition it analyzes what this division of labor means for worker consent and the normalization of inequality.

Keywords: luxury service; personalization; physical labor; emotional labor; care; subordination; structural inequality

Chapter.  14579 words. 

Subjects: Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility

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