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The Commercialization of Intimate Life

Semester and Year SP 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG1946
Section 001
Instructor Kimberly DaCosta
Days W
Time 9:30 AM - 12:15 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SOC


Same as SOC-UA 970 001.


The relentless commodification of all areas of social life is a defining feature of our time. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in our intimate lives. Paid childcare, takeout food, gardeners, and grocery delivery provide what the unpaid labor of family life once did and have become accepted parts of everyday life. Increasingly, commodification extends deeper into our intimate lives, encompassing our relationships, our bodies and ourselves. In turn, dating services, egg and sperm banks, surrogacy, “life coaches”, and even the sale of bodily “products” have become part of our commercial and social landscape. This commercialization of intimate life constitutes what Arlie Hochschild calls a “commodity frontier”—a social and cultural leading edge where the market encroaches upon zones of life once situated (or imagined to be) outside of it. On this frontier, various forms of care are packaged in the form of expertise or a service and sold back to us. On this frontier, our deepest personal connections are forged through market transactions. This course examines the social and economic conditions that give rise to the commercialization of intimate life. We ask what is new and not-so-new about this development. What does it mean when emotional and intuitive acts become work for hire? How concerned should we be that capitalist practices (like marketing and branding) are attached to care, bodies and our selves? Our readings engage politics, ethics, gender, race, and global capitalism from a range of social science disciplines.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)