Happiest Place On Earth_.pdf - HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH OR A...

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HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH OR A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL?Part of Walt Disney Enterprises includesthe theme park Disneyland. In its pio-neering form in Anaheim, California, thisamusement center has been a consistentmoney maker since the gates were firstopened in 1955. Apart from its sociologi-cal charm, it has, of late, become some-thing of an exemplar for culture vulturesand has been held up for public acclaim inseveral best-selling publications as one ofAmerica's top companies, most notably byPeters and Waterman (1982). To out-siders, the cheerful demeanor of itsemployees, the seemingly inexhaustiblerepeat business it generates from its cus-tomers, the immaculate condition of parkgrounds, and, more generally, the intri-cate physical and social order of the busi-ness itself appear wondrous.Disneyland, as the self-proclaimed"Happiest Place on Earth," certainly occu-pies an enviable position in the amuse-ment and entertainment worlds, as well asthe commercial work in general. Its prod-uct, it seems, is emotion—"laughter andwell being." Insiders are not bashfulabout promoting the product. Bill Ross, aDisneyland executive, summarizes thecorporate position nicely by noting that"although we focus our attention onprofit and loss, day-in and day-out we cannot lose sight of the fact that this is a feel-ing business and we make our profitsfrom that."'The "feeling business" does not oper-ate, however, by management decreealone. Whatever services Disneylandexecutives believe they are providing tothe 60 to 70 thousand visitors per day thatflow through the park during its peaksummer season, employees at the bottomof the organization are the ones who mustprovide them. The work-a-day practicesthat employees adopt to amplify ordampen customer spirits are therefore acore concern of this feeling business. Thehappiness trade is an interactional one. Itrests partly on the symbolic resources putinto place by history and park design butit also rests on an animated workforce thatis more or less eager to greet the guests,pack the trams, push the bottoms, deliverthe food, dump the garbage, clean thestreets, and, in general, marshal the willto meet and perhaps exceed customerexpectations. False moves, rude words,careless disregard, detected insincerity, ora sleepy and bored presence can all under-mine the enterprise and ruin a sale. Thesmile factory has its rules.IT'S A SMALL WORLDThe writing that follows' representsDisneyland as a workplace. It is organizedroughly as an old-fashioned realist ethnog-raphy that tells of a culture in native cate-gories (Van Maanen, 1988). The cultureof interest is the Disneyland culture but itAuthor's Note from John Van Maanen: This paperhas been cobbled together using three-penny nails of otherwritings. Partscomefrom a paper presented to theAmerican Anthropological Association Annual Meetings in Washington D.C. onNovember 16, 1989called"Whistle While You Work." Other parts comefromVan Maanenand Kunda (1989).

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Term
Fall
Professor
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Tags
Test, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, disneyland, Magic Kingdom

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