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Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation Hardcover – June 5, 2012
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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."
"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."
"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."
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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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.
Perhaps the main issue is that men today have more options than ever (especially with online dating) which makes them less likely than ever to commit. Women have two biological clocks: having babies and beauty/youth (which the media have conditioned us to desire). Once women get past their mid 30s, men have emotional power over them since men don't share their intense need to settle down. The author states, "...men control women's emotionality through women's readiness to commit. While [the best seller book] The Rules is a very misguided attempt to correct the structural emotional imbalance between men and women, it hits at the core of the emotional imbalance in heterosexual relationships."
One fascinating aspect of this book is that it compares the history of love (especially nineteenth century) with modern love. I was intrigued to learn that the men got their status in the past through land, children and servants. Now that status is mainly from careers and the women they partner with.
Also, "Nineteenth century middle-class masculinity was defined in terms of the capacity to feel and express strong feelings, make and keep promises, and to commit to another with determination and resolution." The author's research indicates that men are not "hard-wired" to be commitment phobes; rather, society has changed men in less than 100 years!
Another biggie is that in the past, if a woman was abandoned by a man, it was the man who was thought to be at fault. The woman kept her dignity and anger was directed at the immoral man who was unable to pull through with commitment. "Jane Austen's heroines are not only uncannily self-possessed but also strangely detached from the need to be, as we would say in modern parlance, `validated' by their suitors." Nowadays, however, women blame themselves and feel low self esteem after being dumped. They may even grasp at any kind of compliment or validation from the man who left them. This feeling of being rejected is probably the biggest reason that love hurts, and the author implies that it is like blaming the victim when authors come out with ideas that "women love to much." We are social creatures. Aren't we supposed to love?
In the past, people looked for moral character and financial stability in a mate. Nowadays, sexiness is found to be high on the list of criteria. The author blames the media for making us feel that whoever has the most sex appeal is going to make us happiest. People now are judged by how much "erotic capital" they have, which is "conceived of as the quality and quantity of attributes that ... elicit an erotic response in another." This had leveled the playing field economically, since a middle class or even poor person can be sexy and thus marry someone of higher economic status.
There is an entire section, in fact, nearly a chapter, on how online dating has changed things. We are now using a more rational checklist to pick a mate, and are overwhelmed with options our ancestors didn't have. This often makes it harder than ever to commit!
Though most of the book is an easy read, there were times I felt like I was back in college and I had to read the paragraph a couple of times to get it. No doubt this is used as a university text in sociology. But frankly, I couldn't put it down and read it cover to cover within a week! I found the entire discussion fascinating, and got many "aha!"s from it.
Susan Schenck, author of The Live Food Factor: The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet
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Love hurts for a lot of reasons and fortunately there is a lot of research...Read more