Another way of “amusing ourselves to death”? Experience, ideological fantasy, and labor control in variety entertainment production


Jia Wenjuan (co-author, with Zhong Kaiou)

The Journal of Chinese Sociology, 09 August 2020

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Abstract: Compared with traditional industries, new changes have taken place in the labor process and manufacturing consent in cultural and creative industries. In entertainment labor, managers transform high-intensity labor into pleasant entertainment through relational work, emotional work, and sentimental work. In contrast to traditional industries, labor control in entertainment does not rely on organizational institutions or economic incentives but is based on supplemental cultural factors, such as relationships, emotion, and sentiment. At the same time, the logic of ideological operation behind manufacturing the consent of laborers is no longer according to the traditional Marxist-Althusserian interpretation in which managers shape a particular idea through the control of the labor process while concealing the real labor–capital relation with a false consciousness. It becomes a case of a Lacanian–Zizekist description: the laborer enters a realistic fantasy through specific experience and pursues his plus-de-jouir in ideological reality. In the end, the laborers devote their body and soul to work.

About the author: Jia Wenjuan was a HYI Grassroots Training Program Visiting Fellow from 2011-12.