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Gripes

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4361-8
224 pages
December 2009, Polity
Gripes (0745643612) cover image
We all know what it's like to be annoyed by little things that our husband, wife or partner does – leaving the cap off the toothpaste tube, leaving the toilet lid up, leaving dirty clothes on the floor – and we know how easily these little grievances of everyday life can spin out of control. In this brilliant new book the sociologist Jean-Claude Kaufmann shows us how and why sparks can suddenly fly even in the most well-adjusted couples.

They see themselves as being in total harmony but they are mistaken! The clash between their uniquely individual attitudes to life rumbles on in silence until suddenly erupting in emotional outbursts each time an object or an attitude reveals for the thousandth time the unbearable and incomprehensible otherness of the partner.

When this occurs, a whole panoply of tactics is deployed, ranging from the combative (secret acts of revenge) through the neutral (sulking) to the subtly loving. But these stormy episodes within relationships can have a happy ending, for it is through learning to overcome these irritations and aggravations that love is ultimately strengthened.

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Introduction
PART ONE : 1 + 1 = 4
1. The conjugal adventure
Domestic emotions
1 + 1 = 1?
Sparks start to fly
The comfort zone
Doubly irritating objects
Key episodes

2. Men and women - different or complementary?
The different approaches
Glitches
Are men less irritated?
Irritated by a spectre
Millions of Peter Pans?
Stubborn macho reactions

PART TWO : IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
3. The causes
The symbolic toothpaste tube
Forced proximity
A waltz in double time
Traces of the self
Money matters
Secret worlds
Too close
Too distant
4. The mechanics
The list
Crystallisation
Letting off steam
Aspects of identity
‘Passion killers' and the magic of love
Confused feelings
A certain notion of the truth
Dissonance

5. The wider picture
Family baggage
«Mummy's boy»
«That slut»
Inattentiveness and humiliation
Dissatisfaction
Disgust
Pathological irritability
Aggravating social circumstances

PART THREE : SMALL ACTS OF REVENGE AND ROMANTIC TACTICS
6. Communication difficulties
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
Hot and cold
The language of gestures
The use of laughter
Inside the mind of the irritator
Secret acts of revenge

7. Love's secret ways
Minuscule victories
The about-turn
When irritation melts away
Physical therapy
Judicious use of sulking
Seeing reason
Reframing the scene
The little cinema and voice off
Accentuating the positive

Conclusion
Methodological Appendix
A new research technique
My direct correspondents
A research project cannot be emptied out like a bag
My other sources
# Bibliography


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Jean-Claude Kaufmann, Professor of Sociology, University of Paris V, Sorbonne

Translated by Helen Morrison

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"Kaufmann is a wise and clever microsociologist, inspired by Erving Goffman, by fashion magazines, and by kittenish and cougarish women. He is the voice of the annoyed, the vexed, the fearful, and the comforted."
Contemporary Sociology

"Living in an increasingly detraditionalised world opens up glorious new opportunities for individual autonomy and self-realisation. It also creates unprecedented pressures on long-term relationships. Kaufmann
brilliantly captures this paradox of life in late modernity, analysing the seemingly limitless sources of mutual irritation in everyday life, as well as spouses' inventive revenge and peacemaking tactics."
Véronique Mottier, Jesus College, Cambridge & University of Lausanne

"Jean-Claude Kaufman's Gripes is one of those rare books that brings into focus a seemingly unimportant fact of life. Irritation and the slow abrasive effect of the gripes it causes are sands that grind down the gears of relationships. Behavioral scientists and self-help advisers make so much of the powerful passions. Kaufman brilliantly illuminates the simpler forces of social disruption."
Charles C. Lemert, author of Muhammad Ali: Trickster in the Culture of Irony

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