Few of us have been spared the agonies of intimate relationships. They come in many shapes: loving a man or a woman who will not commit to us, being heartbroken when we're abandoned by a lover, engaging in Sisyphean internet searches, coming back lonely from bars, parties, or blind dates, feeling bored in a relationship that is so much less than we had envisaged - these are only some of the ways in which the search for love is a difficult and often painful experience.
Despite the widespread and almost collective character of these experiences, our culture insists they are the result of faulty or insufficiently mature psyches. For many, the Freudian idea that the family designs the pattern of an individual's erotic career has been the main explanation for why and how we fail to find or sustain love. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Let's be clear: despite the catchy title, this is nothing but a research-oriented textbook, and even as textbooks go, a poorly written one that makes not the slightest effort to enliven the topic.
I hate giving one star, because I know it makes me look like a crazy person with an axe to ground, but this may be the "most unreadable* book I have ever mistaken for pleasure reading. I know quite a few others who feel the same way (this was a book club selection), so I'm extremely skeptical of the high reviews. Even if all the other reviewers are academics, in which case they should identify themselves as such, I doubt they finished the book.
TL;dr This book is positively Derrida-esque - in fact, Derrida is quoted at one point. It is UNREADABLE.
This book makes you reexamine every assumption you once had about something very basic - romantic love -- one of the most important building blocks of our experience, one that lays the ground for a successful, rewarding life. It is not a self-help book and its sophisticated - occasionally dense -- prose reflects its depth and seriousness. Eva Illouz is an innovative and bold thinker who cuts through the fabric of social history with searing clarity. Her real accomplishment is in the way she accesses society's unconscious. She understands better than most that if we don't try to understand changing social and cultural forces we will never understand ourselves. I know this from my work as a psychotherapist. Patients do not exist in a vacuum but within often murky social and cultural contexts. Any psychotherapy that does not incorporate the knowledge and understanding of social and cultural contexts is incomplete and even deceiving. Once elucidated, those forces can clarify so much about...
There are so many stupid relationship/dating advice books, that encourage endless, neurotic navel gazing. Or even worse, make women believe their romantic problems are "their fault" because they fail to embrace 1950s gender roles. For example "men are hunters" and women "are emotional and needy". Illouz puts the modern experience of dating into a larger social and historical context. If only there were more books like hers out there for women to read. Both men AND women would be better off.
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