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Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation Hardcover – June 5, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2014 ASA 'Sociology of Emotions Recent Contribution Award

"A bold, thought-provoking book."
Times Higher Education

"An important book … full of arresting ideas about love in our time"
Los Angeles Review of Books

"A significant achievement, a major analysis of love and an important contribution to sociology. It deserves to have a wide readership wherever love is."
The Australian

"A valuable and much needed contribution to the Western discussion of how emotions and capitalism influence each other."

"An insightful attempt at tackling the timely and difficult question of the relationship between romantic suffering and (post)modernity."

"Illouz interrogates the travails of modern love and charts a course through the emotional geography of contemporary feeling … [This book] 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."
LSE Review of Books

"Like any sociologist worth her salt, Illouz pushes readers to consider how our experience of love might largely be created by the kind of society we live in. Tracing a sort of history of emotions through archives and literature since the Regency era, she argues that in earlier times people’s feelings about love and sentiment were quite different from those we take as self-evident ... It is not our own fault love hurts, Illouz tells us; it is inherent to our modern condition."
Inside Story

"Why Love Hurts is a tour de force, a thrilling read. Unseating the primacy of individual psychology as the reigning explanation for the travails of modern love, and demonstrating the profoundly social nature of our most intimate feelings, Eva Illouz etches a whole new emotional atlas."
Laura Kipnis, Northwestern University, and author of Against Love: A Polemic

"Eva Illouz's Why Love Hurts is brilliant - the indispensable book on the social power and meaning of sex and love. And with a bonus: it cuts to the core of the modern emotional condition, all told."
Todd Gitlin, Columbia University

"Eva Illouz's enormous talent to interpret vast empirical material from interviews, statistics, magazines, and novels with sociological imagination and philosophical understanding leads to striking and well-grounded results, such as the increasingly important role of sexiness and physical attraction in choosing mates. A milestone in the investigation of changing patterns of love and marriage."
Axel Honneth, University of Frankfurt and Columbia University

"In this bold and ground-breaking book Eva Illouz argues that there is something qualitatively new in the modern experience of romantic suffering. Readers may not agree with all of Illouz's hypotheses, but none will fail to be provoked by them - and in so doing be forced to challenge their own assumptions about love and modern life itself."
Susan Neiman, Director of the Einstein Forum and author of Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grownup Idealists

"Recently named one of the most important thinkers of the future by German newspaper Die Zeit, Illouz could very well be the twenty-first century's next great public intellectual."
Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics

"No one will be able to discuss love without referring to this book."
Die Zeit

About the Author

Eva Illouz is Rose Isaac Chair of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a member of the Center for the Study of Rationality. Her previous books include Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism and Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. Her book Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery won the American Sociological Association, Culture Section Best Book Award, in 2005.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745661521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745661520
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,136,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Thompson on June 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Let me make one thing perfectly clear. This is a scholarly, not a popular book. Yet I find it to be an incredibly helpful resource in sustaining a good relationship. Her insistence that love (and the suffering of love) has social and historical origins is a provocative one. She also drives home the point that superficial Mars/Venus distinctions can only help so much -- and they can't lead us to deep healing.

What I take away from this is that we must be conscious of the influence of the society around us. While we can never be independent of society's influence -- we are all part of society -- we must be willing to consider the good of the beloved, the good of the relationship, before any other concern -- even social norms. Even over our own individual freedom and desires. Furthermore, we can't fall back too much on superficial sex differences, or risk prolonging unnecessary suffering. We must be willing to look the beloved straight in the eye and try to see who is really there -- and then to serve the good of that person.

That means we need to be willing to take the first step toward change, and not wait for the other person to change or improve first. That unilateral leap is covered in practical terms in Olsen and Stephen's excellent The Couple's Survival Workbook. That book is recommended for those looking to create positive change in their relationship themselves. Similar to Impossible Love Love Hurts can help you to understand why things are the way they are in the first place -- even if you're not ready to make the leap.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By S.E. Poza on April 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The concept behind this book is very intriguing and somewhere, buried within the academic-speak, is a very interesting way of looking at how culture and society shape our perceptions of love and romance. There is a reason why most people do not subscribe to academic journals, public libraries don't stock doctoral dissertations, and journalists write in the fashion that they do. That is because what is required to be a successful academician is very different from what it takes to be an author of a good book. As a bit of academic work, this is fantastic. The author provides copious references to support her contentions and goes to great lengths to cite literature, philosophers, and other notable academic sources to support her theories. This is the stuff of which good writing for people who are in academia is made of.

This book, however, is not marketed as a textbook or a thesis. It's marketed as a sociological explanation of why love hurts us and the cover speaks to the desire to sell copies to people who are intrigued by the question. Unfortunately, this book is highly unreadable. Each chapter plods through thickets of references in the densest possible prose. I'm actually a fan of journal articles and sociology and psychology in particular, but everything has its place. My vocabulary is quite advanced and I have an excellent all around education, but sentences like, "In The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology, Adorno argues that through its deployment of cultural technologies, bourgeois modernity tamed the unregulated associative form of thought, and that in the eighteenth century, imagination became an institutionalized practice in the realm of aesthetics and later in mass culture.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Geneva Lewis VINE VOICE on May 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Eva Illouz is a sociologist who has taken aim at the current psychology/self-help genre related to relationships but tweaking it with a social science viewpoint.
However, the title (If love ONLY hurt we wouldn't be so involved in its pursuit, no?) and the cover art should clue the reader in that this book is geared towards the same self-help market that she decries, without offering a substantive alternative approach that fits into today's society or reality that is complex. A war between sociology and psychology is not a battle I'm particularly thrilled by; for those readers who seek a more measured anthropological approach, Helen Fisher's "Why We Love" is a stalwart classic in the "social science- decodes the mysteries of love" genre.

With a plethora of historical and contemporary analysis of books such as" The Rules," along with first-person narratives, Illouz seems to be operating on a rigid set of principles: Men have all the power in modern relationships; women are victimized by a blaming culture related to self-esteem principles in psychological therapy and castigated for relationship failures, and that modern sexual choices/behavior/expectations leave women holding a "commodity" (sexual activity) that has less value than at any time in history. She assumes that all women seek a single lifetime partner who will cosset and protect them from the world at large, without their own goals, only to "love and be loved." Illouz seems to be caught in a web of Bronte sister novels when she glowingly speaks of previous centuries and their ordered patterns of courtship, sexual responsibility, and long-term committed relationships. As any student of history or common sense can ascertain, the past viewed as perfect and the present as imperfect is a flawed basis of argumentation.
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