Shelves: tried-but-quit I have no idea why this book was published with catchy title and intriguing cover; it is so densely academic and in love with its own post-structuralist critical sociological theory jargon that it was virtually unreadable -- and I have a pretty high familiarity with and tolerance for post-structuralist critical theory jargon. Fair enough. Illouz does a fantastic job of comparing the ideas of love and marriage in the past to the modern ideas we as a society have now towards the subjects. As a woman, reading this book was interesting for me because it was so easy to relate to; however, I believe there is sort of a bias involved in the writing of the book being as Illouz is a feminist sociologist. In terms of sociology and the sociological explanations behind why love does in fact hurt, Illouz is able to pull from the many findings of many different sociologists including Bordeau, Hirsch, Mead, and Marx to name a few.
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Eva Illouz. Polity Press. March Here Illouz adds a much needed intervention, shedding light on how the personal and the social intersect in shaping the romantic self in late modernity. She suggests that the individual navigates their way through complex social structures and institutions which frame the rules around and cultural rituals of love, drawing on the resources which they have personally accumulated.
It is this social-psychic trajectory which Illouz posits as the modern condition of love; an experience that is shaped through inevitable suffering. Pre-Modern relationship experience was tightly governed by a clear system of signs which codified and ritualised signs of feeling.
Contemporary experience, she argues, is constituted through the de-regulation of marriage markets and freedoms around the choice of partner. The rules of emotional engagement may remain highly structured but the conditions within which choices are made have changed significantly.
Moreover, the rationalism which characterises late modernity has led to uncertainty and irony. Both love and rationality have been rationalised. Today partner selection has become dis-embedded from publicly shared moral, social and economic factors. Love has become dis-embedded from social frameworks and as such has become the site through which the self is validated and valued.
It has become a matter of the subjective and individualised heart, and for women, as the eponymous title tells us, love hurts. This is not, however, simply a feminist text that laments the plight of women.
These, she demonstrates, enable men to achieve fulfilment and a sense of self worth through their public status, such as a successful career. But, Illouz asserts, there is no resulting sense of fulfilment in such a quest. Instead this introspection creates ambivalence, a sense of dissatisfaction that we can never know or trust what our true feelings may be. Balancing the uneasy bedfellows of ambivalence, irony and the desire for love creates disappointment.
It is, she contends, disappointment and the corollary management and acceptance of disappointment which is the overriding characteristic of love today. There are many fine qualities to commend this book and it is highly readable; but there also some significant problems with the underlying argument and the way that it is advanced.
Illouz weaves together a myriad of sources, from Regency literature, to the plethora of social networking sites on the Internet and handbooks which speak to and generate dialogue on the many contemporary forms and practices of relationships, to the original empirical research which she conducted on the topic.
These sources provide fertile ground from which she draws together and develops historical, sociological, psychological and cultural studies perspectives to illustrate and advance her points. She even flirts with the bio-sciences. This interdisciplinarity serves to enliven and enrich the text but it does lend a sense of superficiality to her argument.
The points that she makes are typically well rounded but the evidence is drawn from a net so widely cast that the claims being made are not always robust. The eclecticism of the text can also make the intricacies of her argument at times hard to follow, as she slips seamlessly from one mode of thinking to another.
All of this in fewer than two pages of text! It is not that different sources and perspectives cannot productively talk to one another and their fusion shed new light on phenomena; it is the pace at which such associations are forged which tends to undermine the approach. Collisions and conflations are inclined to obscure the complexity of ideas and any nuances and ambiguities which may arise. It does, however, suggest that some of the claims being made would benefit from being tempered and, the seamlessness of the joins unpicked to include the frayed edges of complex experience which characterises lived lives.
Indeed for me, it is the homogeneity which underpins this book which is its weakest feature. Illouz argues that it is through an analysis of love that we can better understand the conditions and transformations which constitute modernity.
Paradoxically she then categorically asserts that the argument advanced in this book is not relevant to women who are situated or who situate themselves outside of the heteronormative conditions which structure social relations. Those excluded from her analysis include lesbians and women who resist the heteronormative ideal of wife and mother. These exclusions, she argues, are justified because heteronormative love fuses the emotional and the economic, and, through her analysis, their disentanglement reveals the wider conditions at play which shape modernity.
This may be true. It is not. A significant characteristic of late modernity is how it has incorporated and re-produced sexual diversity. There are other significant omissions which are equally troublesome. Class and racial diversities are effaced. Why Love Hurts offers many interesting ideas and these deserve to be taken up and systematically interrogated.
Her positioning of emotions as part of social structures is a timely provocation and makes a valuable contribution to, and indeed revitalises and reorients the sociology of emotions. It will surely prove to make a valuable contribution as an addition to student reading lists, both for the ideas that it puts forward and for the lively debate and heart-felt discussion that it will generate among both women and men.
She has published widely in families, intimacy and sexuality. She has researched the experience and understandings of long-term couple relationships.
Book Review: Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation by Eva Illouz
Eva Illouz. Polity Press. March Here Illouz adds a much needed intervention, shedding light on how the personal and the social intersect in shaping the romantic self in late modernity. She suggests that the individual navigates their way through complex social structures and institutions which frame the rules around and cultural rituals of love, drawing on the resources which they have personally accumulated. It is this social-psychic trajectory which Illouz posits as the modern condition of love; an experience that is shaped through inevitable suffering.
Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation
The research developed by Illouz from her dissertation onward focuses on a number of themes at the junction of the study of emotions, culture and communication: The ways in which capitalism has transformed emotional patterns One dominant theme concerns the ways in which capitalism has transformed emotional patterns, in the realms of both consumption and production. Commodities of many kinds — soaps, refrigerators, vacation packages, watches, diamonds, cereals, cosmetics, and many others — were presented as enabling the experience of love and romance. The second process was that of the commodification of romance, the process by which the 19th-century practice of calling on a woman, that is going to her home, was replaced by dating: going out and consuming the increasingly powerful industries of leisure. Romantic encounters moved from the home to the sphere of consumer leisure with the result that the search for romantic love was made into a vector for the consumption of leisure goods produced by expanding industries of leisure.
Despite the widespread and almost collective character of these experiences, our culture insists they are the result of faulty or insufficiently mature psyches. Psychoanalysis and popular psychology have succeeded spectacularly in convincing us that individuals bear responsibility for the misery of their romantic and erotic lives. The purpose of this book is to change our way of thinking about what is wrong in modern relationships. The problem is not dysfunctional childhoods or insufficiently self-aware psyches, but rather the institutional forces shaping how we love. The argument of this book is that the modern romantic experience is shaped by a fundamental transformation in the ecology and architecture of romantic choice. The samples from which men and women choose a partner, the modes of evaluating prospective partners, the very importance of choice and autonomy and what people imagine to be the spectrum of their choices: all these aspects of choice have transformed the very core of the will, how we want a partner, the sense of worth bestowed by relationships, and the organization of desire. This book does to love what Marx did to commodities: it shows that it is shaped by social relations and institutions and that it circulates in a marketplace of unequal actors.