The Journal of Chinese Sociology (Jan 2023)

The spear of capital and the shield of labor: Chinese model of emotional labor in domestic work

  • Meng Liang,
  • Kunxi Li,
  • Xue Feng

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 1
pp. 1 – 22


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Abstract The theory of emotional labor, originating from the institutional background of the Western social and cultural system, is committed to criticizing the emotional management and emotional alienation of service workers under capital discipline. This paper introduces the construction of social relations with acquaintances typical in Chinese rural society into the analytical framework. It presents a Chinese model of automatized emotional labor, different from the model of commercialized emotional labor, by analyzing the emotional model acquisition in the professional development process of domestic workers and the mechanisms of formation, maintenance, and reproduction of the model in the labor process. In the new model, consumers (customers) and workers are equal and mutually beneficial interactive subjects, and emotional labor is no longer the spear of capital but instead becomes a shield for workers against challenges in the labor process. Therefore, this paper puts forward a theoretical reflection on consumers–workers under the model of commercialized emotional labor.