Whether its finding mates, raising children or making meals, we have given many areas of our once-communal lives over to the marketplace, says UC Berkeley sociology professor Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of the new book “The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times.” In 2009, for example, the popular dating site Match.com reported that 56 million introductory emails had been sent. And according to the nonprofit International Coaching Federation, “there are more than 20,000 coaches for life, leadership, business and other fields.” The number of service professionals available to us is increasing, not decreasing.
What’s the Big Idea?
Hochschild argues that what was once a ‘village life’ among the middle class has become increasingly commercialized. What is troubling is that families and individuals are handing over emotionally fulfilling experiences to strangers for cash. “These services are only likely to proliferate in a world that undermines community, disparages government, marginalizes nonprofits and believes in the superiority of what’s for sale,” Hochschild writes. The author is convinced that we won’t go back to how it was before “because we don’t want to.” Still, nearly everyone recognizes a line across which some experiences are too precious to outsource.