Why Love is Not Free: How Social Structures Affect Our Emotions

Dr. Polina Aronson: Why love is not free: How social structures affect our emotions

Love, it seems, has never been freer from fetters of conventions. At no time in the past have Western men and women enjoyed more choice and more liberty in dating, marrying, divorcing or just being single. Indeed, most of us were raised to believe that love is free –  but this is a superficial perception. Instead, our ideas about love are dominated by powerful political, economic and social forces. Together, these forces lead to the establishment of what we can call romantic regimes: systems of emotional conduct that affect how we speak about how we feel, determine ‘normal’ behaviours, and establish who is eligible for love – and who is not.

This session will be about ways Romantic Regimes affect our lives. It will argue that the Romantic Regime dominating in the modern West can be rendered as the Regime of Choice, driven by the imperative to optimize relationships through relentless self-examination and assessment of one’s psychological needs. While taken for granted in the bounds of Western modernity, in post-Soviet Russia the Regime of Choice is contested by an alternative way of conceptualizing and expressing love: the Regime of Fate characterized by valuation of attachment above sovereignty –  a value system that results in a stronger focus on maintaining a bond rather than on boosting the independence of each partner. The lecture will contrast the two regimes and pose questions about possible alternatives.

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