The Promised Quotes from Illouz

I haven’t finished reading Illouz’s book yet because I never just read scholarly books. I annotate them in a very detailed way because it’s very useful for my work. Plus, I have the shittiest memory and need to revise constantly to remember what I read. So here are some interesting quotes.

On the suffering Olympics:

“Modern identity has. . . become increasingly publicly performed in a variety of social sites through a narrative which combines the aspiration to self-realization with the claim to emotional suffering” (4).

On gender roles:

“Because capitalism demands and creates networks of interdependence, and has affect within the very heart of its transactions, it has also brought about a destructuring of the very gender identities it helped establish in the first place. . . The ethos of communication blurs gender divisions by inviting men and women to control their negative emotions, be friendly, view themselves through others’ eyes, and empathize with others” (23).

And my favorite:

“Such emotional ontology has made intimate relationships commensurate, that is, susceptible to depersonalization, or likely to be emptied of their particularity and to be evaluated according to abstract criteria. This in turn suggests that relationships have been transformed into cognitive objects that can be compared with each other and are susceptible to cost-benefit analysis. . . The process of commensuration makes intimate relationships more likely to be fungibles, that is, objects which can be traded and exchanged” (36).

This is very much in the vein of Bauman. The argument is identical to his, but the explanation of the causes is more interesting, I believe. Plus, she has a rare sophisticated understanding of Freud that I have not encountered in any other theorist. She actually read the guy, which is rare.

The point everybody needs to take away from the book is that we have developed “a cognitive style which empties relationships of their particularity and transforms them into objects which. . . become more likely to know the fate of commodities traded” (38).

10 thoughts on “The Promised Quotes from Illouz”

  1. Can you explain your favorite and the point in your own words, please?
    I don’t think I get “evaluated according to abstract criteria” (couldn’t one always evaluate?) and about exchanging relationships.


    1. People see other people as consumer goods. And the problem with consumer goods is that there is always a better and newer model out there. The result of this approach is always loneliness and alienation.

      A real-life example. When I first met my husband, he was reading this self-help book that’s supposed to help you find a wife (or husband.) There is a whole list of questions the book tells you to ask prospective dates in what is actually called “a shopping conversation.” The perfect partner should have most of the listed characteristics to be deemed acceptable for a dating relationship. Our relationship almost didn’t survive because of the blasted book because I was refusing to adopt the shopping approach. In the end, I told him that he either tosses the book and stops trying to follow its suggestions, or this isn’t going to work because I’d like to interact as human beings and not as collections of attributes. We still often joke about that horrible book.


      1. Reminds me of the arranged marriage practices in India where such shopping takes places albeit much more formally. The language of shopping is actually used, sometimes ironically and sometimes seriously.

        I wonder if the capitalistic transformation of the country has something to do with this.


      2. I wonder how much of this instrumental approach to relationships–treating them as consumer goods with differential values–is practiced by professors and academics (as well as others in competitive professions).


  2. Yes, I will love this book. I have actually read parts of it, and reviews, the sort of thing you can get online. And yes, I like Freud, and I don’t think the suffering-to-become-legitimate is at all necessary. (Although I am also against the current, opposite camp, “resilience”–which is equally commercial.)

    About dating attributes, though, I think I have some although I’d rather have zero preceonceptions, zero prejudices. But one I’ve noticed is that you have to keep your house clean enough to be comfortable by my standards. Otherwise we won’t get along and there will be multiple other ways in which we won’t. And yes, this does have to do with the body.


    1. The body is only the point of departure. No matter how strong the attraction is, if a person starts saying ridiculous, idiotic things or behaves like an idiot, that will kill any attraction for me.


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