Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 201–219 | Cite as

The Production of Distinctions: Class, Gender, and Taste Work in the Lifestyle Management Industry

  • Rachel Sherman


Drawing on participant observation and interviews, this paper analyzes the paid labor of lifestyle production. In particular, I look at jobs in the lifestyle management industry that involve making consumption-related aesthetic choices with and for clients. This is taste work, and workers are taste brokers, who mediate between clients and markets, between clients and other people, and between clients and their own desires. Taste brokers shape not only clients’ consumption decisions but also their class performances and dispositions. I argue that taste brokers also reproduce legitimate social differences in three ways: by fostering distinctions between “good” and “bad” taste; by reinforcing the association between particular tastes and particular class positions; and by casting women as both better at and responsible for making aesthetic decisions.


Class Dispositions Taste Lifestyle management Gender 



I would like to thank the personal concierges who participated in this project, especially those employed by At Your Service, for sharing their work and their experiences with me. I am also grateful to Laura Amelio, Javier Auyero, Elizabeth Borland, Averil Clarke, Leslie Gates, Amy Hanser, Kesha Moore, Jacqueline Olvera, Lucia Trimbur, and Christine Williams for their helpful comments on this paper. Caitlin Zaloom deserves special thanks for indispensable conceptual insights at a critical moment.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyThe New SchoolNew YorkUSA

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