WHY LOVE HURTS EVA ILLOUZ PDF

As an academic work that spans several fields—sociology, economic theory, culture studies, and literary theory with a smattering of psychoanalysis —it is fairly dense. But, despite our casual-seeming relationship, it has certainly been my most recommended book throughout the last couple of years. I myself am currently living a happily-ever-after type situation, so why would I be reading a book about why love hurts? Well, the first response is that love, while being the subject of this book, is also the incredibly powerful lens through which the author examines social and economic functions. Honestly, I understand more about the free-market economy after having read about how we mate within it.

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This new book by Eva Illouz, Professor of Sociology at Hebrew University, sets out to do for emotional suffering and romantic love what Marx did for commodities, exposing the socio-economic underbelly of what we once took to be the natural features of a happy and fulfilling life.

For those in her target audience, namely heterosexual Western women, Illouz hopes to offer a compelling account of how suffering in love has come to be internalized as personal failure. This book is a sociological exploration at heart, though it is less reliant on observations survey data, interviews than an abundance of literary and philosophical references used as if they were source material.

All this is interspersed with cursory interruptions from the heavy hitters in sociology, critical theory, gender studies and psychoanalysis: from Durkheim and Marx to Firestone and Freud. One can also expect to find transcripts from personal interviews and interactions on Internet dating sites within the text. Illouz juxtaposes this with a modern culture of commodification that has rendered sexuality the currency of mate selection while sexual product pushers like the cosmetics industry laugh their way to bank.

For Illouz, it is this sociological understanding of why modern relationships are the way they are that can serve us in these times of emotional relationship distress, not psychology. This way of thinking has led us to replace love for self-love. In other words — we are socialized to blame ourselves when things go wrong in love because that is what is available to refashion when you are in a psychiatrists office.

Furthermore, Illouz claims that all this interiority, self-analysis, and rationalization is sucking the passion out of love. Indeed, for Illouz it is the irrational excesses of love that makes it consuming and passionate. As a result, Illouz claims that suffering has lost its cultural cachet in modernity. Whereas in times of yore romantic suffering, like self-flagellation, was repurposed as a way to uphold social mores or exemplify your spiritual devotion, modern suffering is viewed as a sign of failure and entails a complete crisis of the self.

To stave off suffering, Illouz believes we have retreated into our imagination and fantasy, into realms that we can control, where we can orchestrate the emotional experience. She points to accelerated rise of technologies of imagination, like the cinema, that have accompanied the development of consumer culture. The inevitable disappointment, when our lived reality fails to live up to imaginary fictions, leaves us increasingly cynical and closed off.

We thus retreat further into our imaginations and fantasies because they are controllable, and emotionally safe. It is at this point that Illouz believes we use our imaginations in an autotelic fashion. With the advent of the Internet and social media networks we can all the more readily replace real interactions with manufactured ones. Just think of all those relationships with Facebook friends, or encounters on online dating sites, that presence absence.

Furthermore, the author herself proclaims that this book is not relevant for all women implicitly excluding men? Perhaps the need to hone in on this point can justify her narrow scope. I remain convinced that addressing the power dynamics of non-heternormative relationships would enrich her argument.

In any case, despite the proclaimed target demographic, I do think this book has something to say to anyone who is struggling to understand why love hurts in a supposed age of increased gender equality and sexual liberation. Whether understanding the sociological underpinnings of suffering is enough to ease it remains to be seen.

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Book Review: Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation by Eva Illouz

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Reading Notes: Why Love Hurts by Eva Illouz

This new book by Eva Illouz, Professor of Sociology at Hebrew University, sets out to do for emotional suffering and romantic love what Marx did for commodities, exposing the socio-economic underbelly of what we once took to be the natural features of a happy and fulfilling life. For those in her target audience, namely heterosexual Western women, Illouz hopes to offer a compelling account of how suffering in love has come to be internalized as personal failure. This book is a sociological exploration at heart, though it is less reliant on observations survey data, interviews than an abundance of literary and philosophical references used as if they were source material. All this is interspersed with cursory interruptions from the heavy hitters in sociology, critical theory, gender studies and psychoanalysis: from Durkheim and Marx to Firestone and Freud. One can also expect to find transcripts from personal interviews and interactions on Internet dating sites within the text.

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Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation

But why is it, really, that frustration is indelible to satisfaction in romance? Although unrequited love and the anguish of longing have a perennial place in our experience of romantic pain, Illouz is concerned with the pain that lives within actualized romantic relationships. She writes:. When relationships do get formed, agonies do not fade away, as one may feel bored, anxious, or angry in them; have painful arguments and conflicts; or, finally, go through the confusion, self-doubts, and depression of break-ups or divorces…. Despite the widespread and almost collective character of these experiences, our culture insists they are the result of faulty or insufficiently mature psyches. The rise of clinical psychology in the twentieth century only solidified and granted scientific legitimacy to this notion that our romantic misery is a function of our psychological failings — an idea that caught on in large part because implicit to it was the promise that those failings can be deconditioned.

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