Eva Illouz’s Emotional Capitalism

I’m reading Eva Illouz’s Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism, and it’s surprisingly good. It’s an analysis of how our emotional lives are conditioned by the system of economic relations we live in. Illouz works in the same vein as Zygmunt Bauman in his Liquid Love, but her analysis is much stronger because she talks, in a very honest and strong way, about the ways in which feminism shores up neoliberalism.

It’s very fashionable to write research about emotions these days. The so-called “emotional turn” in scholarship produced a crapload of gushy, silly books and articles about emotions. Illouz’s book is extremely refreshing in contrast because she is strangely uninterested in any of the dogmatic pieties that academics usually emit when trying to say something about gender, feminism, psychology, and capitalism.

I wondered why Illouz was so sane and wrote with such freedom until I looked at the book’s back flap and discovered that she is an Israeli scholar. As a result, I now support the boycott of Israeli scholars to protect them from being drowned by the tsunami wave of idiocy that exists in the American academia.

I’ll post a few quotes from Illouz later today so that everybody can see what I mean.

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16 thoughts on “Eva Illouz’s Emotional Capitalism”

  1. This sounds right up my alley. Will be reading this.

    I haven’t found a book about this topic, and perhaps there isn’t one because it’d be so hard to research, but I wish there were more study done on how the world changes very quickly, but people tend to anchor their expectations, reactions, and outlook to the present moment and declare that nothing has changed as they retroactively recast the past from the mold of the present.

    Like I said, hard to research. But life and the weltanschauung changes quickly; watching only a few minutes of a movie from the 1990s (which wasn’t that long ago) shows that our entire narrative approach and understanding has changed — and that is without even mentioning that half the lines in any given film from that time would now be considered grievously offensive.

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    1. The book itself supports your theory without trying to. It was published in 2007, and already many of the examples on online dating seem very dated and kind of funny.

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    2. “retroactively recast the past from the mold of the present.”

      Many years ago in a sociology book (blanking on author etc) there was a section on how Americans like to cast their internal autobiographies as a particular kind of story where the present represents a stage of enlightenment they’ve reached. The story though undergoes constant revision so that previous stages of enlightenment are retroactively interpreted as false compared to the now (finally!) true enlightenment.

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      1. One of the things that most creeps me out about progressive (or whatever you want to call it) culture in recent years is the fanatical presentism. It seems that some people really can’t handle the fact that the past happened and that the people who lived there were different from us.

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      2. That sounds like a sociology book I’d like to read. I have a difficult time recalling authors’ names, too. I used to be particularly bad in that I wouldn’t even know the title or the author of the book I was currently reading because I plowed through them so fast. That seemed ridiculous even to me, so now I make more of an effort — but after it’s read, I forget all but the ideas.

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  2. This question of how to know where you are in time really fascinates me. On the one hand, much of the so-called past isn’t even past. Yet there are things that have changed massively and we act as though they had not.

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  3. Waiting for the quotes. I LOVE those kinds of posts most of all.

    Also, am very glad to see my country mentioned positively. πŸ™‚ I read wiki about Eva Illouz; may be her other works are good too.

    Many things you mentioned as accepted academic dogmas in America have always sounded as extremely unsuitable for Israel to me, even in academic circles which are less liberal than some imagine. See: open borders. You said academics from elsewhere, including Israel, try their best to parrot American latest views, but hopefully this book is a usual example rather than an exception for Israeli scholars. Have you thought of checking other Israeli scholars to find out?

    And,wanted to ask a basic question: do you read about new developments in feminist theory in order to analyze literary works with their help? And, as far as you know, there are no suitable literary works in English lit so far, only in Spanish and other languages?

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    1. “Have you thought of checking other Israeli scholars to find out?”

      • I don’t read people because of where they are from. I usually see an interesting quote and then check out the source.

      “And,wanted to ask a basic question: do you read about new developments in feminist theory in order to analyze literary works with their help? And, as far as you know, there are no suitable literary works in English lit so far, only in Spanish and other languages?”

      • Yes, it’s for my scholarly base. I will write about it in more detail in the next post. I have found a couple of OK sources on the analysis of English-language TV shows. But nothing specifically on literature. Not that I’ve been actively looking, though.

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  4. Also: am I the only person who does not do Internet dating? People I know in real life, except for one super-shy guy who wouldn’t date in person either and hates apps generally, say I am the only one and that it is the only way. Even if this is true, how in the world do people tolerate having to manage yet another app and/or website, visit it, keep it up, etc.? I’ve already got course websites, Facebook, blogs and e-mail and I want to cut down, not increase the number of screens I must visit.

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    1. “Also: am I the only person who does not do Internet dating?”

      • Illouz would say that it’s because you are not terrified of your body and realize that the body is at the heart of any real attraction.

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      1. They would say that is why you should use Tinder or Bumble, not eHarmony or OKCupid. The thing is that the body may be central, but you have to meet one, and people don’t just walk up to each other, they check them out online first. Even in a club. Your Tinder app shows you who is on your Tinder and also in the club. Then you observe them and see whether you like them in person. If you do, you message them through Tinder and then talk. Back in my day, you’d have had to walk up blind and ask them to dance. Or in other cases, you just don’t meet people unless you are on these apps. The graduate students say they meet incredible numbers of people, find out a lot about the area, etc., through these apps and then meet some and are attracted to some bodily.

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  5. Also, I am opposed to the over-sentimentalization of US life because it all has to do with these canned sentiments. I do not find that it is that your emotions are taken into account — it is that you are required to have certain emotions and to express them in particular ways.

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    1. “Also, I am opposed to the over-sentimentalization of US life because it all has to do with these canned sentiments. I do not find that it is that your emotions are taken into account β€” it is that you are required to have certain emotions and to express them in particular ways.”

      • You’ll LOVE Illouz. πŸ™‚

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