Research Highlights

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Psychologification and changes in emotional laborMobilization through emotions/governance targeting the heart/mind

writer: SAKIYAMA, Haruo (College of Social Science, Associate Professor) published: 2012-12

The question
of “psychologification”

 In recent years, under the name of various “abilities”, at work and in our private lives we have been prodded to busily, and at the same time happily, engage in various forms of “labor”; “Ability to live”, “ability to love”, “ability to work”, “ability to get married”, etc.
 Behind these words lie a great number of expert opinions enjoining the attainment of “correct” psychology, manners, and insight. These arise not only within so-called “pop psychology” but also in the form of “etiquette manuals”. However, are they correct?
 In this way, in the shadow of a deluge of phrases like “maintain the “correct” state of mind!” and “mind your “manners”!”, there is a mechanism that excludes, in the name of “self-responsibility”, those who cannot maintain this kind of attitude. The fact that this mechanism, while taking the form of the individualization/psychologicification of social problems and minimizing the importance of these problems by directing attention exclusively towards the individual’s own feelings or attitude, is connected to people being controlled by  psychological knowledge that induces them to have the “correct state of mind” has been discussed in the fields of modern power theory and the sociology of emotion.

The sickness
called “self realization”

 One of the concrete manifestations of this, or something that autonomously manifests along with it, is that people desire emotional labor and there is a mentality that increases its attraction. For example, nurses and caregivers voluntarily seek “emotional labor”, “work involving contact with people” is spoken of as being attractive in the labor market, and to this end there are efforts to increase “human abilities”.
 This is not necessarily limited to what is officially referred to as “labor”. For example, as is emphasized by the slang term “KY”[“Kuki Yomenai”- A Japanese phrase meaning “unable to read the atmosphere” that has become widely used in the last several years], people are required to pick up on the atmosphere and state of mind of those around them and behave accordingly, and when it comes to romantic relationships/efforts to find a husband or wife there is also a strong demand for “considerate people”.

society being driven towards towards “emotions”:
the social problem of individualization

 In this research I examine the comprehensive history of how this push towards “emotions” came to permeate Japan in concrete terms. I also address theoretically the development of psychologification as the formation of social structures, through the transition towards neo-liberalism, that demand a high degree of interpersonal skills, and as the development of technology, as seen in psychological tests, with the power to quantify/reify and manage one’s own “emotions”.
 I also aim to show, through the use of concrete examples, a state of affairs in which people are driven towards “emotional” labor/interpersonal relationships. To this end, while following the changes over time in statements concerning “emotions” found in various media such as business books, women’s magazines, and romantic relationship “manuals”, I thoroughly investigate both the direction being taken when control of “emotions” is emphasized and the movement towards the spread of technology by which one’s “emotions”, as interpersonal skills, are made to compete with those of others, and positively elucidate the current state of labor/life in which a value shift towards “emotional” labor/interpersonal relationships is occurring.

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Institute of Ars Vivendi. Ritsumeikan Univ.