Emotional Labour and Governmentality: Productive Power in Childcare

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This article examines the interplay between governance and cost-containment efforts in the public sector and the emotional labour and well-being of childcare workers. Care work researchers have highlighted the complexities of power in emotional labour, such as the fact that emotional labour may simultaneously benefit the individual worker and reproduce inequalities that may be detrimental to workers’ well-being. The goal of this article is to develop our theoretical understanding of power in emotional labour and show how power is related to emotional labour not only constrainedly in terms of lack of control, status and resources but also productively in terms of the subjectivities enabled by organisations. The article draws upon the works of Foucault and Rose, particularly the concepts of productive power and governmentality and suggests that emotional labour may be conceptualised as a technology of the self. The potential benefits of governmentality and productive power in terms of connecting emotional labour to larger structures are illustrated by qualitative interviews with Danish childcare workers, which show how emotional labour may become a form of self-governance that contributes to the individualisation of work-related responsibilities.
TidsskriftContemporary Issues in Early Childhood
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)281-293
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - 2017


  • emotional labour
  • childcare
  • power
  • Governmentality