Love: A Sketch
December 2010, Polity
This short text, originally written in 1969 by the eminent German social theorist Niklas Luhmann, goes a long way to redressing this neglect. Rather than seeing love as a unique and ineffable personal experience, Luhmann treats love as a solution to a problem that depends on a wider range of social structures and forms. Human beings are faced with a world of enormous complexity and they have to find ways to order and make sense of this world. In other words, they need certain facilities for action Ð what Luhmann calls ‘media of communication’ Ð that enable them to select from a host of alternatives in ways that will be understood as meaningful by others. Love is one of these media; truth, power, money and art are others. With the development of modern societies, greater demands are made on this medium of love, altering the relationship between love and sexuality and giving rise to the distinctive difficulties we associate with love today.
This short text by one of the most brilliant social theorists of the 20th century will be of great interest to students and scholars throughout the social sciences and humanities. It is a concise and pithy statement of what is still the only sociological theory of love we have.
Michael King for Times Higher Education
"The textual basis of an early seminar Luhmann held at
Bielefeld, this book is essential reading for social and cultural
scientists, theorists, and historians concerned about the semantics
of love as an institutionalized medium of communication entrusted
with regulating intimate relations in modern society."
Stephan Fuchs, University of Virginia