Want An Egg? It's as Easy as Faxing: Home and Efficiency
The invasion of time saving appliances and convenience food items is nothing new in American kitchens. Sociologically speaking this can (and has been) explained through a variety of theoretical paradigms. This could certainly be understood as an ideal example of Habermas’ notion of the (re)feudalization of the lifeworld, the colonization of the private sphere by the sphere of economy and consumerism. This phenomenon can also be explained through feminist theory as a source of liberation for women in particular, relieved from domestic duties. There is however, another aspect to this that is worth exploring. If we extend Arlie Hochschild’s work on the “Time Bind,” another picture emerges. According to Hochschild, it is not necessarily that our work lives have encroached upon our private/home lives but rather that they have switched places. This reversal sheds light on the fascination with streamlining and making more efficient the everyday tasks of home: poaching an egg, “dry cleaning” at home, instant potatoes. If the verbiage of work has indeed entered the home as she posits, then it is not surprising to see constant innovation and products aimed at making everything at home “easier.” The world of work now has fax machines, digital communication, printers, copiers, scanners, and automated answering systems. In fact, many people in offices even send emails to a co-worker even when their offices may be next to one another. As silly as some of these inventions may seem (see New York Times article below) such as toaster ovens that can simultaneously toast bread and poach an egg or a microwave that can cook omelets and pizza; understood through the lens of Hochschild’s work it makes perfect sense. Home has become a locus of efficiency and productivity a place that must juggle and manage multiple and conflicting demands. The reversal then of home and work has directed consumer-driven attention to make the daily tasks of home, like they did with the daily tasks of work, as easy as the push of a button.