I’ve mocked the trend toward personal outsourcing for a while now, and at first glance, this Washington Post article about ad-hoc household assistants is a big, fat, slow-moving target. Patrick Deneen certainly had fun with it.
Upon consideration, though, the real story seems to be the amount of cognitive dissonance involved among the DC suburbanites who are buying these services. In places where wealth is considered part of the landscape, like Brentwood or the Upper East Side, it’s assumed that the rich have servants. But the fusty Washington suburbs have until now supported an unostentatious cadre of bright but relatively underpaid bureaucrats and functionaries. After 9/11, with the heaping of the nation’s wealth into the warfare/welfare state and its camp followers, the real money has arrived. Culturally, though, the idea of employing a steward, majordomo, chamberlain, butler, grape-peeler, whatever is still beyond the pale, so these workers have to define themselves with a new, insipid vocabulary. Enter the “Lifestyle Manager.”