Love, Sociocultural Phenomena

Love as antidote to our compulsive individualism

«Modern man has a personality problem. Because our modern everyday life is such a big role play, people can never bring their whole individuality into society, always only parts of it. In nearly all areas of society, the modern individual is forced to play certain parts, be it as a hot dog vendor or as a superstar. Only this disguise gives them access to society. ‹Whole› people, by contrast, are usually asked to ‹wait outside›. In a way, split personalities are the norm nowadays. Except in love, where the whole person gets a chance. This promise of wholeness makes love a modern agency of meaning-making.» (Christian Schuldt, Der Code des Herzens. Liebe und Sex in den Zeiten maximaler Möglichkeiten («The Code of the Heart. Love and Sex in Times of Maximum Opportunities»), Eichborn Verlag, Frankfurt 2004, Chapter IV, Ich liebe, also bin ich («I love, therefore I am»)

The German sociologist and scholar of culture and digital transformation continues: «Modern individuality also increases disorientation and puts pressure on people. The more freedom individuals have in shaping their own lives, the more responsibility they have in filling this freedom themselves, too.» For «the verification of the own individuality can only come from outside. We have to find out if others share the ideas we have about ourselves, and we have to check if the assessment by others corresponds to our own. The smaller this overlap is, the greater the risk of identity crises will be.»

And this is where the author introduces love, effectively as a universal cure-all: «Love achieves the ultimate affirmation of individuality and thus acts highly identity-building and identity-reinforcing. With the individual and all its peculiarities alongside being fully accepted, love makes up for what modern society lacks. «Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us exist», is what Alain de Botton assumes in his novel «Essays in Love»: «We are not wholly alive until we are loved.»

«The concept of the ‹subject› also offers symbolic protection against the own insignificance to each individual. As a subject, I am not merely a person among billions of others, but rather a unique being with a claim to subject-friendly special treatment. This alone guarantees a certain immunity against the risk of being ordinary. By far more effective are the feelings of uniqueness conveyed by the adjective ‹individual›. At the same time, it renders individualization a paradoxical endeavor. For if we all want to be individual, we are all striving for the same thing: Everyone wants to be different from everyone else. Uniqueness for all at the same time means adaptation to everyone else.»

Photography: Youssef Limoud

«Individuality is permanent self-deception.»

«The self is unremittingly pursued. The magic word for this collective self-searching is ‹self-realization›. Modern man is not only real, but also wants to realize this reality. The pressure to be individual thus causes people to not only want to be different from others, but, in the desire for constant change and development, also different from oneself. Modern individuals are therefore under permanent stress of self-presentation. And anyone who tries too frantically to be individual, is immediately outed as a conformist. … In this way, individuality is like an ongoing disappointment.

This outlines the dilemma of individualized love. Love today offers the highest quality compensation for what modern society occasionally makes difficult to tolerate. It balances out the loss of clear meanings and orientations. But the more it promises individual happiness and security, the more susceptible it becomes to disruption. The increasing pressure of expectations on the individual is also reflected in the rising demands on the partner and the relationship. Precisely when love is supposed to be particularly romantic, erotic, and durable, it quickly feels uncomfortable. And the more individual one’s worldview is, the more difficult it is to find a partner who fully endorses all our peculiarities.

These ambivalent circumstances have apparently caused a relatively new type of relationship to boom: serial monogamy. Serial love offers stability over time, thus avoiding not only the noncommitment involved in affairs but also the pressure of eternity weighing on marriage. Serial love is, so to speak, both romantic and realistic.»

Photography: Youssef Limoud
  1. Lieber Hans

    ich lese deine Inputs immer mit grosser Neugierde. Nun bin ich ganz begeistert, dass du Fotos von Youssef Limoud zeigst.
    Grossartiger Künsler! Sehr herzlich

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *