The Contradictions of Communicative Labor in Service Work

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Boundaries dividing communication and culture from economy are fluid. The US services economy, with broad and deep growth, illustrates this fluidity. This paper applies theorizations of the relationship between communication and capitalism to a customer service job-training course for dislocated workers. A site of communication education, the course teaches students to be successful customer service representatives. Customer service communicative labor bridges production and consumption and, thus, is contradictory. The communicative labor translates the communication commonplace of mutuality into a self-other technology to affirm customers, and also requires a technology that objectifies customers. Job-training students resist this contradiction.

Keywords: Communication Commonplaces; Communicative Labor; Job Training; Resistance; Service Work

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2008

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