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Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism




Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism

Eva Illouz

ISBN: 978-0-745-63905-5 February 2007 Polity 144 Pages

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It is commonly assumed that capitalism has created an a-emotional world dominated by bureaucratic rationality; that economic behavior conflicts with intimate, authentic relationships; that the public and private spheres are irremediably opposed to each other; and that true love is opposed to calculation and self-interest.
Eva Illouz rejects these conventional ideas and argues that the culture of capitalism has fostered an intensely emotional culture in the workplace, in the family, and in our own relationship to ourselves. She argues that economic relations have become deeply emotional, while close, intimate relationships have become increasingly defined by economic and political models of bargaining, exchange, and equity. This dual process by which emotional and economic relationships come to define and shape each other is called emotional capitalism. Illouz finds evidence of this process of emotional capitalism in various social sites: self-help literature, women's magazines, talk shows, support groups, and the Internet dating sites. How did this happen? What are the social consequences of the current preoccupation with emotions? How did the public sphere become saturated with the exposure of private life? Why does suffering occupy a central place in contemporary identity? How has emotional capitalism transformed our romantic choices and experiences? Building on and revising the intellectual legacy of critical theory, this book addresses these questions and offers a new interpretation of the reasons why the public and the private, the economic and the emotional spheres have become inextricably intertwined.

Acknowledgments vi

1 The Rise of Homo Sentimentalis 1

Freud and the Clark lectures 5

A new emotional style 16

The communicative ethic as the spirit of the corporation 18

The roses and thorns of the modern family 24

Conclusion 36

2 Suffering, Emotional Fields, and Emotional Capital 40

Introduction 40

The self-realization narrative 43

Emotional fields, emotional habitus 62

The pragmatics of psychology 67

Conclusion 71

3 Romantic Webs 74

Romancing the Internet 75

Virtual meetings 76

Ontological self-presentation 79

Fantasy and disappointment 95

Conclusion: A new Machiavellian move 108

Notes 115

Index 130

“Well written, conceptually rich, and a welcome addition to the critical literature on emotion. It stands in juxtaposition to the dominant psychological models of emotion that have been unreflectively and uncritically reproduced, especially in organizational behaviour texts.”
British Journal of Sociology

"Illuminates the contemporary expansion of therapeutic models of self and relationships into all aspects of life."
Meghan Falvey, Modern Painters

"Once again, Eva Illouz demonstrates that she is a true heir to the rich intellectual tradition of the Frankfurt School. Taking on the exploration of the important territory where public culture and private consciousness connect, Illouz brilliantly develops the concepts of emotional capital and emotional competence. This elegantly concise book will take its place alongside -- and engage in provocative conversation with -- the work of Bourdieu, Foucault, and Giddens."
Larry Gross, University of Southern California

"In a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history, Eva Illouz traces the entry of intimate emotions into what many thinkers have interpreted as the desiccating, rationalizing discourse and practice of capitalism. She opens our eyes to the large impact of therapeutic and feminist viewpoints on prevailing interpretations of economic life."
Viviana A. Zelizer, Princeton University

  • This new book by the influential rising star of Sociology of Culture explores the topical subject of the role of emotions in contemporary capitalist society.
  • This book deals with popular cultural phenomena such as self help literature, support groups and talk shows and asks how this has occurred and what are the social consequences.
  • This highly topical and well written book offers a new interpretation of the reasons why the public sphere is saturated with the spectacles of private emotions and why so many people define their identity in terms of psychic suffering.
  • The author’s previous book on Oprah Winfrey won the American Sociology Association ‘Best Book Award.’