Another form of “amusing ourselves to death”?: experience, ideology and the labor process of the TV variety entertainment shows

JIA Wenjuan1 ZHONG Kai’ou1

(1.School of Sociology and Political Science, Shanghai University)

【Abstract】Compared with traditional industries, the labor process in culture industries has changed. In the entertainment industry, management transforms heavy labor into entertainment through relational work, emotional work, and feeling work. Different from traditional industries, this kind of labor control is not based on organizational institution or economic motivation, but relies on once supplementary cultural factors such as relationship, emotion and feelings. At the same time, the logic of ideological fantasy behind labors’ consent is no longer the same as what Althusser generalized, i.e., managers shaping a certain concept through the labor process, and covering up real labor relations with a false sense of consciousness. It has changed to the way as Zizek described: the laborers experience a real ideology, pursuing their own plus-de-jouir in the ideological reality. In the end, the laborers devote both their body and soul to work.

【Keywords】 cultural and creative industries; labor process; entertainment industry; relational work; ideology illusion;


【Funds】 Youth Project of Shanghai Philosophical and Social Science Planning Program (2017ESH004) Phased results of the Chenguang Project of the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission (16CG48)

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    [1]. ① “I” here and subsequent case descriptions refers to the second author of this paper. [^Back]

    [2]. ① Source: and [^Back]

    [3]. ② College students should also consider the pressure of coursework and personal life when choosing an internship. At present, many enterprises in Shanghai require internships for part-time internships in half a year, and the time required for full-time internships is much shorter. The past full-time internship of Team W members is basically limited to one to two months of vacation time. [^Back]

    [4]. ① From the company level, senior management imposes strict bureaucratic control on formal employees, and the most important is the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) assessment system. The income of formal employees is directly linked to the program ratings. They are always under the pressure of the company’s performance appraisal. The director and executive director are rewarded according to the completion of the project. However, there are no rules and regulations at the company level that are used to regulate internships. Interns are all managed by the director team. Within the team, the orders of department layers are used only to define workflow and time nodes. Specific management controls, emotional finishing, and employment control are conducted through the three cultural strategies described below. [^Back]

    [5]. ① The names of interns appearing in this paper are all pseudonyms. [^Back]

    [6]. ① Source: [^Back]

    [7]. ① Source: [^Back]

    [8]. ① Source: Mr. L’s WeChat moments. [^Back]

    [9]. ① The signs and illusions come from the two stages of Lacan’s psychoanalytic process: the sign is an intentional composition. It can be said that it catches up with its interpretation... The illusion is an inert construction that cannot be analyzed, it resists interpretation. The sign implies the big other that certain signals are not isolated but consistent, the other will give meaning to it retrospectively. Illusions suggest that the big other should be deleted, blocked, isolated, incomplete, and inconsistent. That is to say, it fills the gap between the big other (Zizek, 2002: 103). The sign is an unpleasant feeling, while the illusion makes us feel happy. The purpose of ideology critique is to “traverse” illusions in a way that reveals signs. [^Back]


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This Article


CN: 11-1100/C

Vol 33, No. 06, Pages 159-185+245

November 2018


Article Outline



  • 1 Another metaphor for entertainment to death?
  • 2 Entertainment and unstable labor in marketization
  • 3 Consent to manufacture in entertainment industry
  • 4 Signs and visions
  • 5 Conclusion
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