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Home arrow Political science arrow Aesthetic Labour: Rethinking Beauty Politics in Neoliberalism

Conclusion

Putting scholarship on creative and cultural labour into conversation with beauty service labour, this chapter has shown how the glamourisa- tion of the hair stylist in contemporary media culture obscures risky and exploitative working conditions. While these conditions are not entirely new, they have intensified and are increasingly normalised as the price to be paid for autonomous and expressive work. The subjugated history of the salon as a site of female solidarity and racial activism denaturalises the figure of the self-interested aesthetic entrepreneur who overlaps with and has arguably outpaced the artist as a model postindustrial worker. This history also confirms that creativity is not a ruse: women’s attraction to cosmetology has always been rooted in the gratification of artisanal production. Today, however, the rising status of the salon as a creative industry and the allure of celebrity have infused beauty service work with new hopes and additional justifications for sacrificial labour. The positing of the salon as a ‘cool job in a hot industry’ (Neff et al. 2005) by countless magazine articles, Instagram posts and TV programmes makes it more difficult to form solidarities or struggle for creativity at work as a ‘basic human right’, not an excuse for precarity and exploitation (Ross 2009, p. 47). While the New York Times expose led to local reforms, the decks are stacked against a true democratisation of creativity by the glamourisation of the salon as a site for ‘dream jobs’.

 
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