Advertisement

Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 29–51 | Cite as

The Value of Relationships: Affective Scenes and Emotional Performances

  • Beverley Skeggs
Article

Abstract

Many theorists have charted for some time how capital extends its lines of flight into new spaces, creating new markets by harnessing affect and intervening in intimate, emotional and domestic relationships, and into bio-politics more generally. Feminists have known for a long time that women’s ‘domestic’ labour has been central to the reproduction of capital but that it has been made invisible, surplus and naturalised and is rarely taken into account in theories of value. Yet we are now in a bizarre historical moment wherein a format has emerged (reality television) in a major capitalist industry (the media) that is premised upon spectacularly visualising women’s labour in all its forms, especially through its focus on relationships, dispositions and emotional performance. Drawing on an ESRC research project, ‘Making Class and the Self through Mediated Ethical Scenarios’, this paper demonstrates how very different spheres of exchange—economy and affect—have come together, offering possibilities for fusing calculation and care. This process bears remarkable similarity to the legal adjudication of property and propriety in intimate relationships. Yet the paper shows how, as attempts are made to commodify affect, it is precisely affect that exposes and disrupts exchange and enables reality television as a technology of affect to visualise the different types of person-value that are constituted through class and gender relations.

Keywords

Affect Intimacy Reality television Relationships Value 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Lauren Berlant, Camila Bassi, Ruth Fletcher and Jin Haritaworn for taking the time to read and publicly discuss the issues raised in this paper, and to Kate Bedford, Anisa de Jong and Jon Binnie for organising the seminar in the CLGS at the University of Kent which provided the space for opening up this discussion. And to Kate and the two reviewers for some great comments. Thanks.

References

  1. Andrejevic, Mark. 2004. Reality TV: The work of being watched. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  2. Ang, Ien. 1990. Desperately seeking the audience. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Appadurai, Arjun. 1986. The social life of things. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Armstrong, Nancy. 1987. Desire and domestic fiction: A political history of the novel. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Berlant, Lauren. 2008. The female complaint: The unfinished business of sentimentality in American culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bernstein, Basil. 1971. Class, codes and control. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bernstein, Elizabeth. 2007. Temporarily yours: Intimacy, authenticity and the commerce of sex. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1987. What makes a social class? On the theoretical and practical existence of groups. Berkeley Journal of Sociology 32: 1–17.Google Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. Practical reason. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  10. Brooks, Peter. 1995. The melodramatic imagination: Balzac, Henry James, and the mode of excess. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cameron, Deborah. 2000. Good to talk? Living and working in a communication culture. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Cronin, Anne. 2000. Consumerism and “compulsory individuality”: Women, will and potential. In Transformations: Thinking through feminism, ed. Sara Ahmed, Jane Kilby, Celia Lury, Maureen McNeil, and Beverley Skeggs, 273–288. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Dangelo, Kathleen B. 1989. How much of you do you really own? A property right in identity. Cleveland State Law Review 37: 499–524.Google Scholar
  14. Davies, Margaret. 1999. Queer property, queer persons: Self ownership and beyond. Social and Legal Studies 8: 327–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deleuze, Jacques. 1978. Giles Deleuze: Lecture transcripts on Spinoza’s concept of affect. http://www.webdeleuze.com/php/sommaire.html. Accessed 22 January 2010.
  16. Donzelot, Jacques. 1979. The policing of families: Welfare versus the state. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  17. du Gay, Paul. 1996. Consumption and identity at work. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. du Gay, Paul, and Graeme Salaman. 1992. The cult[ture] of the customer. Journal of Management Studies 29: 615–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Featherstone, Mike. 1991. Consumer culture and postmodernism. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Fortunati, Leopoldina. 1995. The arcane of reproduction: Housework, prostitution, labour, and capital. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia.Google Scholar
  21. Giddens, Anthony. 1991. Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  22. Gillies, Val. 2007. Marginalised mothers: Exploring working-class experiences of parenting. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Gilroy, Paul. 2000. Against race: Imagining political culture beyond the color line. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  24. Graeber, David. 2001. Toward an anthropological theory of value: The false coin of our own dreams. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  25. Greene, Graham. 1974. The honorary consul. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  26. Hall, Catherine. 1979. The early formation of Victorian domestic ideology. In Fit work for women, ed. Sandra Burman, 15–32. London: Croom Helm.Google Scholar
  27. Hawkes, Gail. 1996. A sociology of sex and sexuality. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Heath, Stephen. 1982. The sexual fix. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  29. Horkheimer, Max, and Theodore Adorno. 1991. Dialectic of enlightenment. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  30. Illouz, Eva. 1997. Consuming the romantic utopia: Love and the cultural contradictions of capitalism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  31. Illouz, Eva. 1998. The lost innocence of love: Romance as a postmodern condition. Theory, Culture and Society 15: 161–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Illouz, Eva. 2003. Oprah Winfrey and the glamour of misery. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Illouz, Eva. 2007. Cold intimacies: The making of emotional capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  34. Jackson, Stevi, and Sue Scott (eds.). 1997. Feminism and sexuality: A reader. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Lareau, Annette. 2003. Unequal childhoods: Class, race and family life. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  36. Lury, Celia. 1998. Prosthetic culture: Photography, memory and identity. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lyle, Samantha. 2008. (Mis)recognition and the middle-class/bourgeois gaze: A case study of Wife Swap. Critical Discourse Studies 5: 319–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Marcuse, Herbert. 1955. Eros and civilisation: A philosophical inquiry into Freud. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  39. Mauss, Marcel. 1990/1925. The gift: The form and reason of exchange in archaic societies. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  40. McClintock, Anne. 1995. Imperial leather: Race, gender, and sex in the colonial contest. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  41. McKenzie, John. 2001. Perform or else; From discipline to performance. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Moran, Les, and Beverley Skeggs. 2004. Sexuality and the politics of violence and safety. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Ngai, Sianne. 2005. Ugly feelings. London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Nowotny, Helene. 1981. Women in public life in Austria. In Access to power: Cross-national studies of women and elites, ed. Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, and Rose Laub Coser, 3–15. London: George Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  45. Radin, Margaret. 1993. Reinterpreting property. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  46. Reay, Diane. 2004. Gendering Bourdieu’s concept of capitals? Emotional capital, women and social class. In Feminism after Bourdieu, ed. Lisa Adkins, and Beverley Skeggs, 57–75. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  47. Reiger, Kereen. 1984. The disenchantment of the home: Modernising the Australian family 1880–1914. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Rose, Nicholas. 1989. Governing the soul: The shaping of the private self. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. Skeggs, Beverley. 1997. Formations of class and gender: Becoming respectable. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  50. Skeggs, Beverley. 2004. Class, self, culture. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Skeggs, Beverley, and Helen Wood. 2008. The labour of transformation and circuits of value “around” reality television. Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 22: 559–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Skeggs, Beverley, and Helen Wood. 2009. The transformation of intimacy: Classed identities in the moral economy of reality television. In Identity in the 21st century: New trends in changing times, ed. Margie Wetherell, 231–249. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  53. Skeggs, Beverley, Helen Wood, and Nancy Thumim. 2008. “Oh goodness, I am watching reality TV”: How methods make class in multi method audience research. European Journal of Cultural Studies 11: 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Spivak, Gayatri. 1987. In other worlds: Essays in cultural politics. New York: Methuen.Google Scholar
  55. Staples, David. 2007. Women’s work and the ambivalent gift of entropy. In The affective turn: Theorising the social, ed. Patricia Clough, and Jean Halley, 119–151. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Steedman, Carolyn. 2000. Enforced narratives: Stories of another self. In Feminism and autobiography: Texts, theories, methods, ed. Tess Cosslett, Celia Lury, and Penny Summerfield, 25–40. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  57. Steedman, Carolyn. 2007. Master and servant: Love and labour in the English industrial age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stewart, Kathleen. 1996. A space on the side of the road: Cultural poetics in an ‘other’ America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Strathern, Marilyn. 1992a. Qualified value: The perspective of gift exchange. In Barter, exchange and value: An anthropological approach, ed. Caroline Humphrey, and Stephen Hugh-Jones, 169–191. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Strathern, Marilyn. 1992b. After nature: English kinship in the late twentieth century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Thompson, James. 1996. Models of value: Eighteenth century political economy and the novel. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Vogler, Candace. 2000. Sex and talk. In Intimacy: A special issue, ed. Lauren Berlant, 48–86. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  63. White, Mimi. 2006. Investigation cheaters. The Communication Review 9: 221–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wood, Helen, and Beverley Skeggs. 2008. Spectacular morality: Reality television and the re-making of the working-class. In Media and social theory, ed. David Hesmondhough, and Jason Toynbee, 177–193. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  65. Wood, Helen, Beverley Skeggs, and Nancy Thumim. 2009. “It’s just sad”: Affect, judgement and emotional labour. In ‘Reality’ television viewing: Feminism, domesticity and popular culture, ed. Stacy Gillis, and Joanne Hollows, 135–150. New York: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  66. Zelizer, Viviana. 2005. The purchase of intimacy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Goldsmiths, University of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations