Love as a Consumer Good

It’s probably a bit late to be addressing this topic, but the use of romance and sexual insecurity as a hook for selling goods and services is so pervasive that it’s societal Muzak. Well, worse than Muzak, because it’s not hard to tune Muzak out, but the touting of romance keys into deep-seated emotional and physical needs, making it more challenging to ignore this type of hucksterism.

The Onion often does TED better than TED, so you should watch the video below with the usual skepticism. Despite the use of brain science to make universalist claims about romantic love, you’ll see Dr. Fisher’s version is has a strong heterosexual undertone. It’s worth questioning whether love a two-party affair is more a social construct than an inevitability. I know a couple in Sydney who had been together 11 years and clearly were deeply attached to each other. They were also pretty experimental sexually (Australians are much less uptight about these matters than Americans, so it was not hard to connect the dots). They mentioned how they had both fallen in love with a woman and invited her into their marriage, not as a fling but on a long term basis. After getting involved for a while, she couldn’t handle it and exited. They were both badly broken up about it.

Plus you have to question her use of a dating site to collect “research” data (sample bias!)…but I’ll leave further shredding to the razor-sharp minds and pens of the NC commentariat:

Lynn Parramore describes how the notion of romantic love has changed since the feudal era in her piece Why It’s Harder to Love Someone in This Era of Extreme Capitalism from Alternet. I wish she had been able to include earlier historical periods; my understanding (and classics scholars pipe up with correction if needed!) was that in the West, romantic love as we see it really is a feudal era onward concept. Prior to that, marriage was seen as about procreation and property, and if one was high enough in the social order, forming alliances. Lust was accepted, and Eros epitomized the classical view of romance: a passion that could strike at any time, and the object of the passion was not of your choosing, and often not terribly appropriate either.

One modern romantic dysfunction that a young male colleague laments is that many of his thirty-something male friends screen their romantic partners for whether their male friends will be impressed with them (the attributes at at a minimum being good arm candy, but this is basically a low-end version of the trophy wife syndrome). He regards this as homoerotic (being more concerned with other men’s attraction that their own attraction). At least in his sample group, this pattern leads to dissatisfaction (the relationships founder, yet the men seem deeply wedded to the same screens for choosing women, almost assuring continuing failure).

From Parramore:

Love is older than capitalism. But the romantic variety, along with its peculiar pains, takes cultural center stage just as capitalism makes its debut. That’s no coincidence. Capitalism and romantic love have grown together, reinforcing and reflecting each other in ways that we hardly notice.

Our society’s organization has a lot to do with the way we understand our perceptions and experiences, including love. Depending on what values we emphasize and the way we imagine ourselves in relation to others, our expectations can bring us fulfillment or crash on the rocks of disappointment.

In the High Middle Ages, the tradition of courtly love among the nobility focused on a knight’s bond to his lady fair; a reflection of the relationship between vassal and lord. Reciprocity was a strong feature of this connection. Women like the powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine, who could often both inherit and manage property in the feudal system, found that courtly love offered them a way to freely express sexual desires outside of the conventions of patriarchy. They could put chastity aside, along with the need for the legitimacy of children. Feudal values, based on a system of private jurisdictions, fed the possibility of love for both men and women outside the bounds of marriage.

The Renaissance turned things in a somewhat different direction. In the 16th century, bourgeois writers like Thomas More (a major figure in the court of Henry VIII), didn’t have much use for female sexuality and influence. They were preoccupied with the emergence of the mercantile and manufacturing economy, and under the early capitalist model, sexuality was to be regulated, religious devotion encouraged, and public life circumscribed. Instead of reciprocity, hierarchy was the primary structure of relationships between king and subject, man and woman, and, eventually, employer and employee. Patriarchal family values were restored. For women, love had to lead to marriage and it had better not stray beyond that boundary. (Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife, famously got caught in the crosshairs of this shift.)

As the ideal of love as mutuality and reciprocity among men and women declined, love became, in the words of historian Joan Kelly, a “narcissistic experience.” It also reflected a general shift in the conception of the self. In his book, The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Society, Anthony Giddens suggests that romantic love introduced the idea of a personal narrative, which is why it emerged along with the novel. Self-realization became the keynote of romantic love. As the Enlightenment loosened religious dominance, people turned to the inspiration of romance as a replacement for what had once been provided by religion. Romantic love became salvation.

By the 19th century, the decline in the belief in immortality sped the transformation in the way people saw themselves. If we don’t possess an immortal soul, then we have to elevate our sense of our temporary selves. If we can’t live forever, then we have to fulfill ourselves now. Our individual hopes and desires gain more significance. We don’t want to accept limits in our earthly life, and we are constantly reaching for more. Romantic love becomes the way we can expand, the place where we imagine ourselves heroic.

As capitalism matures, its emphasis on leaping toward the new and the original stands out. It thrives, as historian Joyce Appleby tells us, on “relentless revolution.” Novelty reigns supreme. The consumer is groomed for the ceaseless search for new sensations and new possibilities. Capitalism looks forward. It revels in future visions rather than reflection. As industrialization brings the demands of endless work, capitalism has to stimulate the desire for pleasure and consumption. The Puritan ethic of delayed gratification, based on the idea of scarcity, is pushed aside. Capitalism offers us the fantasy of abundance, where restraint is unnecessary.

Lasting love becomes constricting and banal. The bond of Ma and Pa Kettle, quietly sharing companionship on the front porch of the farm after decades of living, looks drab and uninspiring. Romantic love is not based on companionship, but on the feeling of being desired. This kind of love appears to give us the opportunity, just as money does, to constantly remake ourselves, to project new version of our lives. It’s about longing, fleeting highs, the same stimulation we feel in buying a new car, a new wardrobe. As the married couple’s romantic attraction wanes, the need for stimulation is transferred to the next big purchase, the washing machine, the wide-screen TV. Capitalism goes humming along.

Until it doesn’t. The problem with capitalism is that it mostly pumps possibilites toward the top. The inequality it breeds results in the restriction of choices in so many areas of our lives – our work, our health, our retirement, even our love lives. We begin to see that capitalism gave our fantasy a blank check but it stole our reality.

Now, in its late stages, capitalism must offer more intense fantasies of romance to counterbalance the reality of those restrictions. As we become more insecure and uncertain, we reach more desperately to proof of the meaning of our existence. We want things we can touch and feel. The blockbuster pop romance, the Twilight series, starts out as a shy-girl-meets-boy story but builds toward a climactic orgy of material abundance as Bella and Edward frolic in the fantasy of endless supplies of helicopters, fancy homes, luxurious clothes, and exotic vacations (where do vampires invest?). This was carried even further by E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, who renamed the Twilight characters and set them down in high-tech Seattle, where Edward becomes the billionaire Christian Grey, whose quest for novel sensations captures the imagination of ingénue Anastasia. The dream of this diamond-studded romantic fulfillment promises to relieve us of our anxiety as we push aside the horror of our depleted savings, our pinkslip.

Capitalism and romantic love offer the ceaseless promise of escape to a better world over the rainbow. But a general sense of the lie inherent in that promise is growing. The system of promised rewards has broken down, and left us with too many broken hearts.

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  1. Sara K.

    Though this is about sex and not romance, this post reminds me of some commentary on the book ‘Women, Passion, and Celibacy’. Here is an excerpt (of the commentary, not the book itself):

    “This idea of the consumer society using sexual liberalism to its advantage is a huge and important one for us to acknowledge … Now, women need to pay for birth control and a gym membership and lingerie and plastic surgery and the right make-up and get their hair done in a salon every eight weeks and wear sexy perfume and pay for dating website memberships. You have to get married so that you can blow thousands of dollars on the wedding, and if your marriage fails, no problem because there are hundreds of divorce lawyers waiting in the wings with their hands out ready to help you for $300 an hour.

    The people selling you these products and services don’t want you to feel beautiful, don’t want you to feel adequate, don’t want you to feel like you don’t even need anyone to want you sexually. If everybody felt that way, the product and service peddlers would lose money.

    The bottom line is: every time you have sex, someone’s getting paid. Every time you do anything to make yourself more sexually desirable, someone’s profiting off of you. There’s no way to escape that because of the tight relationship between sex and consumerism in our culture.

    … To reject sex as irrelevant and undesirable in your life is to throw a wrench in the engine of sex-driven consumerism. That’s another reason why celibacy is not encouraged or supported. Celibacy may be in your best interest, but it’s not in the best interest of the capitalism machine.

    That machine would rather you pay a therapist to figure out what’s wrong with you, pay for a medical doctor to have your hormones checked, pay pharmaceutical companies for drugs to up your sex drive, pay a sex therapist, pay for sex toys and porn, etc.”


    1. JTFaraday

      “The bottom line is: every time you have sex, someone’s getting paid. Every time you do anything to make yourself more sexually desirable, someone’s profiting off of you.”

      No, every time you make a purchase someone is profiting (presumably) off you. Full stop.

      Ay carumba! Even the NYTimes is more productive reading than this place today:

      1. AbyNormal

        “more productive reading than this place today”
        an yet watch this thread fill with swirls of our common denominator …Love.

    2. craazyman

      you’re just not meeting the right guys. you don’t need to spend all that money! what a rip off. Guys that you’d want to meet don’t want all that nonsense. What does the therapist charge? $300 an hour? For what? Does it work? Of course not. It’s ridiculous. If you’re reasonbly hot and want to visit us at the Magonia House of Admiration, we’ll treat you like in the movies. Our motto is “You’re not fat here”

  2. jake chase

    Interesting speculation. IMHO, love is about need and yearning, which exist outside any ‘system’, but of course our commercial system magnifies both in pursuit of profit. Our institution of marriage is a casualty of this magnification, and the debt load which comes with it. The pecuniary partner often becomes imperious, while the impecunious partner inevitably becomes an anvil and, often, a bore and a nag. Anyone who thinks these aren’t real factors just hasn’t been married long enough.

    And the price of escape has now been escalated by our foozling legislators, browbeaten by well organized female voters and apparently unconcerned about their own financial well being until the trap closes upon them individually as well.

    Those of us who remain afloat long enough to get to the fourth wife generally agree that marriage can ultimately work if you give up all the illusions, enjoy the inevitable turf battles, and develop amnesia.

    It also helps to have separate hobbies and a sense of humor.

    1. AbyNormal

      ; )
      “I believe that Tango has the potential to bring out the best in each of us, at least while in the embrace. We surrender our egos; leave prickly personality traits at the table; and cease to be CEOs, taxi drivers, engineers, unemployed. We replace all our externals with a purity of spirit, a generosity of kindness, splendid caring. And when these elements flow freely between partners, it is… the joy.”

        1. AbyNormal

          dulce diversión!

          “There is a storytelling element in there. The tango form is a little like the blues in that you have a kind of structure. It’s not as rigid as twelve bar, but it’s very much a storytelling medium — and there’s an element of call-and-response, and a particular arc in the musical form, that suggest a story. It’s about being in the moment, with the music; and responding to your partner, and the particular feeling and momentum in her body in any one moment. It’s a very concentrated thing; you can’t think about anything else while you are doing it. If you try to hold a conversation, it just kind of falls apart. The music was what really drew me into tango. Everyone knows a few of the more popular tango classics, but once you get into it, there’s such a rich field. It’s astonishing, this kind of miraculous musical form that developed in a very small locality: two cities on either side of the River Plate, in Argentina and Urugauy. It started in the 1880s or ’90s, and there are all kinds of mysteries, myths and stories, about how tango started and developed. It was first of all considered really low-life, almost reptilian. Something to be avoided and not talked about. And then it became this word wide phenomena. . .and I could go on talking about tango forever. . . . but its also to do with movement. I try to get that into my pictures: a sense of movement, something flowing through. A while ago, I realised how much I’d been drawing dancing figures in the corners of my sketchbooks for years before I discovered tango!”
          Alan Lee

  3. Lafayette

    Parramore => Paramour => A lover, especially the “illicit” partner of a married person

    It’s not sure why LP adopted this name, because in old English it is derogatory. And yet, in a more modern context its construct – the words “para” (which is from Greek and means “besides or in addition to” and “amour” (love) – is not all that negative, except perhaps in prudish circles.

    Times change, people change. Contexts change as well. Anglo-saxon attitudes towards sex are not quite those of Latins, particularly amongst the males. But, from experience here in France, it seems the French female is playing catch-up quickly enough in terms of sexual freedom. Both inside and outside marriage.

    That shift, however, has been promoted by the fact that the Latin female has become more financially independent. Those females imprisoned in marriage seem to be from the less educated group, who find marriage an “escape” from parental authority. (Where they escape to is, however, not all that much more free.)

    Besides, we are seeing sexual freedoms become more “natural” in context. The French now accord full marital status to homosexuals, as is happening in many places around the world. And this despite the hardcore resistance in many quarters against the supposed “destruction” of the family-centric society. (Which is hogwash, methinks.)

    My point? That sexual freedoms are a matter of financial freedom as well. And there is no going back.

    1. Art Eclectic

      There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the decline in marriage rates here in the US in the working and economically challenged classes.

      When women have economic opportunity and the ability to finance their own households (either through a job or welfare) they stop needing to marry unpredicable, undesireable losers. When women have no economic options, they are stuck with marriage as the only way out.

      1. jake chase

        Those women who “have economic opportunity and the ability to finance their own households”? I know all five of them, and they are all married to much richer guys.

  4. Philip Pilkington

    Hmmm… I think the whole courtly love movement was actually quite narcissistic. It involved a level of idealisation that appears to me out of all proportion — something very similar to what we see flogged in movies today. Coutly love was all about distance and rejection, so far as I can see, and it was this that sustained the idealisation that gives the whole thing narcissistic qualities:

    This tradition reemerged in a very strong way in the Romantic movements of the 19th century — many of the participants referring back to the old courtly love traditions. Again, this was a very narcissistic movement and, it should be said, laid the foundations for advertising rhetoric during and after the 1960s where people were offered glimpses at a “higher” form of life.

    Does capitalism exploit these narcissistic tendencies in people? Sure it does. But they’re always there — stronger in some people, weaker in others.

    ** A brief aside on classical culture. So far as I can see in Ancient Greece such idealisation was reserved for homosexual relationships with boys — which, incidentally, were of a completely different nature to what we consider homosexual relationships today, as they were only with boys and were seriously frowned upon should the relationship continue after the boy matured.

  5. from Mexico

    Speaking of the neoPlatonic dualism in which both Parramore and Fisher are trapped, someone on a thread a couple of days ago linked a movie called Matewan, in which I found a powerful portrait of the most transcendent type of love, the “romantic” love of which Fisher speaks. The movie can be found on YouTube, and the scence begins at minute 1:46:00 and ends at about minute 1:51:20

    As Fisher said, romantic love is “an obsession, it posseses you, you loose your sense of self.” And if someone is willing to sacrifice their own life for someone else or something else — for an idea or another person or persons that transcends one’s self-love — this is the epitome of the transcendent love that Fisher calls “romantic” love.

    And, as Fisher noted of Plato, this type of love is “impossible to stamp out,” regardless of and in spite of all the machinations of the capitalists — from Machiavelli to Hobbes to Smith, right on down to Gary Becker and Richard Posner. What the capitalists tried to do was to take the dualistic late Classical ideology — a philosophy which held that the world and the flesh are evil and felt that the spirit could achieve full spirituality only by freeing tiself from the carnal — and turn it on its head. Here, for instance, is Michael Allen Gillespie’s description of the anthropology of the devout Calvinist, Thomas Hobbes:

    ***beginning of quote***

    [I]f we read ourselves, as Hobbes recommends at the beginning of Leviathan, we recognize that we and all other human beings are moved by our passions… In reading ourselves in this way, we can discover what we need to be happy… [W]e recognize that happiness consists not in a striving for moral perfection, immortal fame, or perfect piety but in satisfying our bodily desires…

    The happiness of each individual thus depends upon his getting what he wants, and this is related to his power… Such power is the basis for what Hobbes believes is rightly called freedom….
    We are all only individual beings, determined by our idiosyncratic passions. Good and evil for each of us is thus measured not by our progress toward a rational, natural, or supernatural end but by the vector of our desire. No direction is naturally better than any other. Good is what pleases us, evil what displeases us, good what reinforces our motion, evil what hinders it. Or to put the matter in different terms, good is an increase in our power and evil its decrease. The greatest good is thus progressing towards satisfaction with the least hindrance, and the greatest evil the cessation of all movement in death. Each person in Hobbes’ view is thus a self-interested individual who seeks to maximize his own power and satisfaction…

    He believes that humans cooperate and keep their covenants only because it is in their interest to do so and that they will break them when they can achieve some benefit by doing so. Thus they must be forced to keep their promises. This argument rests on Hobbes’s assumption that human beings are absolute individuals.

    — MICHAEL ALLEN GILLESPIE, The Theological Origins of Modernity

    ***end of quote***

    But as Gillespie goes on to point out:

    ***beginning of quote***

    It is important to see that this idea is not rooted in experience. As Aristotle and others pointed out, we all begin as members of families, tribes, villages, or cities and and most remain a part of such communities. We have children, parents, friends, and loved ones whom we trust not merely with our wealth but with our lives. Moreover, there are many for whom we would sacrifice our fortunes and even our lives to save or assist them in significant ways.


    The goal of Hobbes’ science is thus not merely to understand the world but to change it, to give human beings the power to preserve themselves and to improve their earthly lot.


    Such a probablistic position cannot serve as the basis for an apodictic science, because there can be no guarantee that the picture science paints of the world corresponds to reality. The brilliance of Hobbes’ position is that this does not matter. It is not crucial that we know the actual causal chains that govern the motions of matter. For science to achieve its goal we need only hypothetical truth. The hypothetical picture that we construct need not correspond to the actual causal pathways by which events occur; it need only explain how to produce or prevent effects. The account that science give of the world is thus only a construction, that is, a hypotesis. In a certain sense, however, hypothetical knowledge is superior to apodictic knowledge — apodictic knowledge is merely a description of what God did do, according to his potentia ordinata, while hypothetical knowledge describes what God could have done by his potentia absoluta.

    ***end of quote***

    Hobbes, like all good Calvanists, believed religious diversity and freedom posed the greatest impediment to creating the more perfect world he imagined, as Gillespie goes on to explain:

    ***beginning of quote***
    Such a Leviathan, of course, will not be acceptable to all. Religious leaders in particular are driven by their own beliefs about what is right and wrong and jealous of their own power. They are thus unwilling to allow the sovereign to impose his standards of good and evil on them and their followers. They will fight long and hard to prevent this from happening, seeking either to establish an alternative base of power or to usurp the power of the state and use it to achieve their own moral or relgious ends.
    ***end of quote***

      1. from Mexico

        Why do we have to choose between two devils? There is, after all, another way, as Eric Hoffer pointed out in The True Believer.

        Hoffer does not take an exclusively negative view of “true believers” and the mass movements they begin. He gives examples of how the same forces that give rise to True Believer mass movements can be channeled in more positive ways:

        There are, of course, rare leaders such as Lincoln, Gandhi, even F.D.R., Churchill, and Nehru. They do not hesitate to harness man’s hungers and fears to weld a following and make it zealous unto death in service of a holy cause; but unlike a Hitler, a Stalin, or even a Luther and a Calvin, they are not tempted to use the slime of frustrated souls as mortar in the building of a new world . . . . They know that no one can be honorable unless he honors mankind.

    1. Lafayette

      And if someone is willing to sacrifice their own life for someone else or something else — for an idea or another person or persons that transcends one’s self-love — this is the epitome of the transcendent love that Fisher calls “romantic” love.

      Piffle. That’s not love, it’s infatuation – except in the plural.

      That is, one can give their life over to others to selflessly help or assist. (Like a Mother Teresa.) But dedicating one’s life uniquely to one other person is captivity.

      The rapport between two individuals who spend their lives together must be equal and mutually shared, not lopsided.

  6. tomk

    This reminds me of a remark by a radical activist sex worker in Toronto, in an interview published in an old Semiotexte. When asked how she could justify, or maybe how she felt about participating in the “commodification of love”, she laughed and replied that what she did had nothing to do with love, if the interviewer wanted to talk about that, she should be talking to therapists and social workers.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      I think social workers and therapists are usually thought of by post-structuralists as socialising agencies that take over where the family screwed up. It’s by no means clear to me that these people are “selling” love. Indeed, any social worker I’ve ever met is usually pretty clear that what they’re doing is taking over the socialisation functions that the family cannot fulfill.

  7. casino implosion

    “…ne modern romantic dysfunction that a young male colleague laments is that many of his thirty-something male friends screen their romantic partners for whether their male friends will be impressed with them (the attributes at at a minimum being good arm candy, but this is basically a low-end version of the trophy wife syndrome). He regards this as homoerotic (being more concerned with other men’s attraction that their own attraction). At least in his sample group, this pattern leads to dissatisfaction (the relationships founder, yet the men seem deeply wedded to the same screens for choosing women, almost assuring continuing failure)…”

    Lately my travels around the inet brought me to a website forum devoted to “incels” or “involuntary celibates”. A place where (mostly) men commiserated about their total inability to get laid.

    After reading a number of the threads and posts, it was pretty obvious that most of them were not disfigured or crippled with some mental handicap like social avoidant disorder. Rather, it was that their standards for a partner were ridiculously high and based mainly on status and impressing the peer group. This was confirmed by picture threads where they’d rate perfectly attractive, normal looking people as ugly.

    1. OneMoreBlock

      You don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know where you are getting your impressions of “incel” but you have much too blithely dismissed the sad reality of so many men today. Your post reminded me of a study conducted by the internet dating website OKCupid:

      A survey of its users found that women rated 80% of men as below-average! Meanwhile the ratings of women by men showed a normal bell curve where most were average, some were above average, and an equal amount were below average.

      1. casino implosion

        Your peer-reviewed study published in the respected sociological journal OK Cupid Dating Blog definitely trumps my anecdotal account of one visit to a website for horny dorks.

  8. financial matters

    Nice article, always worthwhile contemplating these things..

    I’ve often reflected that leading a happy life is not easy ;) It certainly is difficult at the poverty level and seems strangely elusive at the level of plenty as people keep searching for the next high and can’t find fulfillment. Having enough money to lead a healthy life and have a degree of freedom of action seems ideal. Healthy social actions seem to help as well and feeling useful in some way.

    Our society seems to like things fast and easy but Kahlil Gibran had a different take on love…

    ‘For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.’

    Yikes, how many people are prepared for this when they sign on to

    Somewhat related we all seem to develop a lot of baggage that can be difficult to shed and move forward. We can become lost in this wilderness. For a biblical reference I like this one from Joyce Meyer’s ‘Battlefield of the Mind’. Apparently when Moses was trying to lead his people to the promised land it was only an 11 day walk if they went straight there. But it took them 40 years of wandering in the wilderness to get there.

    Most people seem to think that more money means more happiness but in reality this seems to be a common theme..

    Below an income of … $60,000 a year, people are unhappy, and they get progressively unhappier the poorer they get. Above that, we get an absolutely flat line. … Money does not buy you experiential happiness, but lack of money certainly buys you misery.” (Daniel Kahneman)

    Studies of lottery winners seemed to show a lot of turmoil. ‘Past winners of mega-lottery drawings and financial planners have some more sound advice: Stick to a budget, invest wisely, learn to say no and be prepared to lose friends while riding an emotional roller-coaster of joy, anxiety, guilt and distrust.’

    Blog sites like this and Wikipedia where people donate a lot of time and effort for no payment can actually be quite satisfying ;)

    Daniel Pink has some interesting ideas on what truly motivates us such as things like autonomy, mastery and purpose … people want to direct their own lives, learn and create new things and do better by ourselves and our world through having a purpose. we are truly motivated by these things, not by an instinctive need for food, money, etc.

    1. from Mexico

      Here’s what Jonathan Haidt has to say about it in The Happiness Hypothesis:

      ***beginning of quote***
      Not all action, however, will work. Chasing after wealth and prestige, for example, will usually backfire. People who report the greatest interest in attaining money, fame or beauty are consistently found to be less happy and even less healthy than those who pursue less materialistic goals…

      An axiom of economics is that people pursue their interests more or less rationally, and that’s what makes markets work — Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” of self-interest. But in the 1980s, a few economists began studying psychology and messing up the prevailing models. Leading the way was the Cornell economist Robert Frank, whose 1987 book Passions Within Reason analyzed some of the things people do that just don’t fit into economic models of pure self-interest…

      In his more recent book, Luxury Fever, Frank used the same approach to understand another kind of irrationality: the vigor with which people pursue many goals that work against their own happiness. Frank begins with the question of why, as nations rise in wealth, their citizens become no happier, and he considers the possibility that once basic needs are met, money simply cannot buy additional happiness. After a careful review of the evidence, however, Frank concludes that those who think that money can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop…

      Frank’s explanation is simple: Conspicuous and inconspicuous consumption follow different psychological rules. Conspicuous consumption refers to things that are visible to others and that are taken as markers of a person’s relative success. These goods are subject to a kind of arms race, where their value comes not so much from their objective properties as from the statement they make about their owner… Inconspicuous consumption, on the other hand, refers to goods and activities that are valued for themselves, that are usually consumed more privately, and that are not bought for the purpose of achieving status. Because Americans, at least, gain no prestige from taking the longest vacation or having the shorter commutes, these inconspicuous consumables are not subject to an arms race.
      ***end of quote***

      1. Lafayette


        JH: … People who report the greatest interest in attaining money, fame or beauty are consistently found to be less happy and even less healthy than those who pursue less materialistic goals…

        Yes, but the American public remains unconvinced – so fixated are they on the accumulation of riches as the raison d’être of their existence. Their love affair with the God of Mammon has been going on for a long, long time.

        Lotsa luck for a country infatuated with money, money, money …

    2. from Mexico

      financal matters says:

      …we are truly motivated by these things, not by an instinctive need for food, money, etc.

      Haidt also addresses that point in his chapter “Love and Attachments.” As he asks:

      How could science have gotten it so wrong? How could doctors and psychologists not have seen that children need love as well as milk? This chapter is about that need — the need for other people, for touch, and for close relationships…

      Seneca was right: “No one can live happily who has regard to himself alone and transforms everything into a question of his own utility.” John Donne was right: No man, woman, or child is an island. Aristophanes was right: We need others to complete us. We are an ultrasocial species, full of emotions finely tuned for loving, befriending, helping, sharing, and otherwise intertwining our lives with others. Attachments and relationships can bring us pain: As a character in Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit said, “Hell is other people.” But so is heaven.

        1. from Mexico

          Is it ridiculous?

          A great many people besides Haidt, who by the way is a psychologist, have noticed how psychology and other social sciences ran off the tracks in the first decades of the 20th century, and how they have only recently began to try to get back on the tracks, with only limited success. There are huge financial incentives alligned in support of the self-interest axiom.

          Richard Dawkins, for instance, struck a responsive chord among economists when, in The Selfish Gene, he confidently asserted “We are survival machines — robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes…. This gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behavior.” Reflecting the intellectual mood of the times, in his The Biology of Moral Systems, R.D. Alexander asserted, “Ethics, morality, human conduct, and the human psyche are to be understood only if societies are seen as collections of individuals seeking their own self-interst…”

          Amatai Etzioni, in The Moral Dimension, notes that “The ‘reduction’ and debunking of moral behavior is not limited to neoclassical economists. It is a theme shared by a number of major psychological theories (Wallach and Wallach, 1983).”

          “Beginning with psychological mechanisms, there is a long tradition in the human sciences of trying to explain as much as possible with a few general principles, such as operant conditioning or rational choice, as if the laws of behavior are like the laws of physics,” David Sloan Wilson writes in Darwin’s Cathedral. “In contrast, evolutionary psychologists such as Cosmides and Tooby stress that the mind is not a single general-purpose organ but a collection of many organs that adapt organisms to specific aspects of their environments… Psychologists should be trying to identify and understand these specialized circuits rather than pretending that human behavior can be derived from a few law-like mechanistic principles.”

          Need I go on?

          1. aletheia33

            sure, haidt is a psychologist, and he must know better than to generalize so simplistically about “psychology”. and sure, the fact that his happiness revelation will not serve as a useful antidote to the problems in psychology history and practice that you mention does not invalidate his/your critique of them.

            i imagine we agree that psychology as a discipline practiced by university “scientists” in their laboratories is an incredibly arid and futile study, as far as benefit to real human beings is concerned. it exists primarily to serve its practitioners’ ends. it actively disserves society.

            clinical psychology is another matter. many clinical psychologists have some insight into what enables human love and happiness to flower and are able to help people with this insight gained from clinical experience. they also have a healthy sense of how partial that insight is sure to be, and how often all kinds of other matters and events come into play that defy their (or anyone’s) understanding and that affect their clients’ lives and emotional states profoundly. such practitioners also understand very well the problems in the current “mental health” system, the pharma looting combined with the relentless reduction in health benefits mandated by the leaders of our brave new society.

            haidt writes as though he with his happiness outfit comes bearing the answer. let’s not forget, by the way, that he has had to fight a hard battle for airspace and money in order to achieve widespread public recognition in his field. his “success” depends on how well he markets his “new idea” and sets it off against an “old paradigm”.

            any sensible observer knows that problems in psychotherapy are more complex than will be remedied by “psychologists” having a change of heart and becoming willing to “study” the “disregarded, overlooked” “phenomena” of happiness and love. haidt bases his insights on the “science” of the survey, does he not?

            i take back “ridiculous”–to lump compassionate, caring practitioners who are more aware than anyone of the limitations of the healing art they attempt to practice and clueless rat-tracking technocrats all together under “psychology” as haidt does is both misleading and disingenuous. the suffering of the human heart will not be so readily fixed by the brand of psychology haidt purveys as he would have his wide audience believe. and the resourcefulness of the competent practicing clinician must extend far deeper and wider than haidt has the ability to venture in writing his prescription for what ails us.

            i’m sticking with eric fromm, who i believe was also a psychologist.

          2. from Mexico

            @ aletheia33

            I really don’t know where you’re coming from when you try to put clinical psychology on a pedestal. It certainly doesn’t deserve it, as any older gay person knows. The judgment about the pathological significance of homosexual behavior that occurred before 1987 was not one of clinical psychology’s finest hours. And it only gets worse from there. Much worse, as is explained by Adam Curtis in The Trap:


            Or Scott Noble in Human Resources:


            You are clearly not ready to accept the hard-hitting and well deserved postmodernist critique of psychology that Haidt renders.

          3. aletheia33

            i am not talking about clinical psychology, but clinical psychologists, and i am far from idolizing them, simply recognizing that there have been quite a few who have provided great assistance to their fellow human beings. whatever their self-chosen “leaders” may have “ruled” about homosexuality or any other do’s and don’ts of clinical practice (don’t get me started on the damages to women), there have been and are many clinical psychologists, male and female, sometimes homosexual themselves, who have practiced compassion, respect, and great resourcefulness in helping people live with less suffering. there have been many of them who never dreamed of attempting to influence any client in any way to seek to “recover from” their sexual inclinations.

            what happens in the room between the human beings there has little to do with all that can be written outside of that room about what should happen or what others imagine is happening there. i personally know of much good that actually took place in that room before the great enlightenment of postmodern inquiry–something i greatly respect but do not see as the be-all and end-all for the representation of anything, any more or less than the intellectual movements that have preceded and will follow it.

            to each era its own mode of thought, and in each era bulletins are issued across the board that take no account of the outliers. the deepest matters of the heart, and the brave inspiration of many hearts that led to the great, victorious revolution against homophobia of our era, happened for reasons that neither jonathan haidt nor postmodern discourse can very adequately describe.

          4. from Mexico

            aletheia33 says:

            …the brave inspiration of many hearts that led to the great, victorious revolution against homophobia of our era, happened for reasons that neither jonathan haidt nor postmodern discourse can very adequately describe.

            I disagree. Postmodernism was “the brave inspiration of many hearts that led to the great, victorious revolution against homophobia.”

            Postmodernism is the recognition that science — and especially the social sciences as they have existed since the 17th century and still exist today — is little more than morals and politics masquerading as disinterested inquiry. The purpose of science, in the Modern World View, is to lend intellectual and moral legitimacy to the status quo hierarchy. It is not descriptive. It is prescriptive.

            So if one is going to mount an assault on the bastion of science, like the gay community did, then one has to fight a battle on two fronts. It has to come up with a science which can be demonstrated to be more descriptive and disinterested, plus it has to grapple with the political hierarchy which dominates the scientific world. Without politics, a breech in the walls of the scientific fortress would never have been achieved.

  9. from Mexico

    Lynn Paramore says:

    “…capitalism has to stimulate the desire for pleasure and consumption. The Puritan ethic of delayed gratification, based on the idea of scarcity, is pushed aside.”

    Here Parramore parrots the sweeping generalization and half-truth that Christianity, including Puritanism, embraced neoPlatonic dualism. For the most part, it did not. As Carroll Quigley observed in The Evolution of Civilizations: “Western ideology believes that the material world is good and the spiritual is better but that they are not opposed to each other since the material world is necessary for the achievement of the spiritual world.”

    Here’s how Martin Luther King Jr. put it: “any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried.”

    And Parramore didn’t even get the Puritan part right, as Michael Allen Gillespie explains in The Theological Origins of Modernity:

    ***beginning or quote***
    Within both Neoplatonism and scholastic Artistotelianism, the divine is imagined to transcend the physical. The source of sin is thus conceived as a falling away from God into the material world, which is at best an imperfect image of the divine and at worst a snare of the devil. For Luther, by contrast, God is conceived out of the Incarnation. The corporeal is thus not a falling away from divine reality by the place in which the divine comes to be in and for us. It is the parousia. Human entanglement in the corporeal world is therefore not in itself sinful, not a falling away from God. Not only is the material world not connected to the devil, it is the one thing he cannot penetrate. The devil acts not by stoking our carnal desire but by preying on our spirit, our intellect, and our pride. The devil is the demagogue within, the evil Machiavellian rhetorician who speaks to our self-interst and thereby leads us astray.

    Indeed, the devil hates all incarnation, all life. Thus, in Luther’s view he hates procreation and marriage because he hates God’s life-giving power that is vitally present in the attraction of man and woman. Thus, the notion that the celibate life is higher or more holy than the married life in Luther’s view is mistaken. Indeed, it is itself the product of the devil’s stoking of priestly pride. The carnal life for Luther is thus a divine gift to be enjoyed. Luther himself loved nature and enjoyed eating, drinking, sexuality, etc. During his disputation with Eck, he carried a rose in his hand that he repeatedly gazed upon and smelled to remind himslef of the goodness of creation. That we typically associate the Reformation with Puritan ascetiscism has little to do with Luther and much more to do with a revival of Neoplatonism in the thought of Calvin and the Calvinists, which replaced Luther’s cosmology of incarnation with a more arid intellectual spiritualism.
    ***end of quote***

    1. J Sterling

      Puritans disapproved of extramarital affairs, but they were in favor of an enjoyable recreational sex life inside marriage. Married puritans were eager readers of 17th-century sex manuals like Aristotle’s Masterpiece (not really by Aristotle), which were later banned by people who weren’t puritans.

    2. digi_owl

      The irony being that priestly celibacy was a practical construct, as the Church was bleeding property each time a priest left behind a widow…

  10. craazyman

    Managing two people is hard enough (no pun intended) but three would be ridiculous. What about the bathroom? I bet they had at least two bathrooms, three would be better. This is something for rich people to toy with between booze and drugs. You can’t do this in the 1-bedroom rental.

    Love has nothing to do with the brain. What kind of scientific nonsense is that? I apologize for not watching the video all the way. Love starts in the DNA all over the cells of the body, and it only uses the brain as a tool. The way a man uses his tool, just pounding away at the brain until it screams. hahahaha

    1. Emperor Wang of Market Mongo

      On Market Mongo, our economists have recognized that sex and love do not have a stable equilibrium point, or even multiple stable equilibria points. Total disequilibrium is inherent in the system.

      The Emperor reserves the Sectorial Balances approach to sex and love for the Emperor himself, one among many reasons being that only the Emperor has enough bathrooms in the Royal Palace.

      Our economists decided that the rest of the system needs stimulus to function properly, and proposed we download “Girls Gone Wild” videos to Mongo residents’ iPhone implants during our residents’ sleep period every night. Mongopoly, Inc. does charge for this service, of course, but they note that residents are in a better mood when arriving at work in the morning. Furthermore, the service is lower cost than a gym membership, lingerie, plastic surgery, the right make-up and hair, sexy perfume and dating website memberships. Much, much cheaper than a Porsche. Mongolopy, Inc guarantees efficacy when the service is used as directed – during a residents’ high alpha wave sleep period – and your Mongopoly, Inc iPhone implant can conveniently detect this activity and automatically schedule downloads!

      Problem solved. In your dreams everyone.

    2. hunkerdown

      Commonly, in my experience and knowledge, the three often manage themselves as three separate pairwise relationships, whose natures and degrees can vary as the casual acquaintance between the tips of a V, a lusty passionate whirlwind, or the same solid connection of old Ma and Pa rocking on the porch, and keep just enough of an overarching community-type relationship as is actually necessary, which could be anywhere from none whatsoever to preempting the individual pairings in importance. Whatever works.

      It may seem tough to keep three people on the same page, but in the right mix that third pair of hands can be quite helpful for running errands, caring for children, keeping the home clean and in shape, and other such quality-of-life improvements that only seem little when rationalizing their absence but constitute a huge relief when realized.

      1. AbyNormal

        hmmmmmm the english patient reassembled me

        “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead.”

        ive never been the same

  11. Paul Tioxon

    Two hearts are better than one. We have 2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 hands, 2 legs, 2 kidneys, 2 lungs, redundancy is adaptive to the cruel slings and arrows of fortune. Try to survive with the flu or cancer all by yourself. Try living on one income and coming home alone to run a household, even a small apartment by yourself. Love has an illusory capacity to overcompensate for a short lifespan, but loneliness is not an illusion at all, and it can’t be overcome with a twitter feed or a facebook girl/boyfriend. Instead of big screen TV’s as you fade into middle-age and worse, try massage and sharing doctor appointment schedules. As you sit in the small crowd of the doctor’s office, it may not be front row at a Springsteen concert, but you still find yourself coming together with other people for something greater than yourself, an annual check-up, the human enterprise keeping up a well bred herd, so the next generation will be bigger, stronger and maybe happier. Just like next years model. New and improved.

    1. diptherio

      there are worse things
      than being alone
      but it often takes
      decades to realize this
      and most often when you do
      it’s too late
      and there’s nothing worse
      than too late

      ~Charles Bukowski

      1. Paul Tioxon

        Yea, being drunk whenever you are around a woman is worse than being drunk all by yourself. Especially when she is drunk too and you have to clean up 2 puddles of vomit. Best to drink alone.

        1. diptherio


          Just offering an alternative perspective. Personally, I’m agnostic: I can’t decide which is worse, loneliness or dealing with somebody else’s BS (as if my own isn’t enough). Right now I’m leaning towards singlehood plus good friends and a cat as the best solution for myself.

          1. LifelongLib

            Loneliness was bitter; wife + child BS is heartbreaking (and some of the loneliness is still there).

        2. craazyman

          Alone with a Drunk

          I had a girlfriend who lived with me, in a studio apartment, and she’d come home drunk after nights out with friends. She drank too much and too often and she’d slam around while I tried to sleep and get in bed breathing liquor and smoke from a cigarette and lie still for a second and then ask me, through bad pizza breath and slurred words, “Do you want to have sex?” It was about the last thing I wanted to have. Solitude was the first, but that was impossible. I said no nicely, like I was half-asleep, and hoped her mind would wander off. When she’d start to snore I knew I was safe, and I’d lay back in my mind as far away as I could get and turn and face the wall in the dark. This became a pattern and then a habit. Eventually she moved from the bed and slept on the couch. And then she moved out completely. I should have been happy, but I was traumatized. When she moved out, I realized how much I loved her and how bad a boyfriend I’d been. All the times I’d ignored her and all the thoughts about wishing she was somebody else, just for 15 minutes. Near the end she told me she’d passed out on a street in front of a bar and laid there for who knows how long, unconscious, until she woke up. I could see it in my mind, the way her legs splayed apart and her feet and cheap shoes on their sides on the cement in the dark, people walking by and looking at her with scorn. It wasn’t always bad between us and she believed in me more than I had any right to expect, for a long long time, in the face of something that was almost a derision, but it wasn’t really, it was just confusion and exhaustion. Love is always more complicated than you think it is. Until it’s over. And then it seems so simple. It really is, but we aren’t. That’s where the problem is.

          1. anon y'mouse

            something i learned long ago from an old drunk celibate (not kidding!) which has proven itself true:

            relationships survive as long as each party has their own room into which they can retreat and close the door if necessary.

          2. digi_owl

            “relationships survive as long as each party has their own room into which they can retreat and close the door if necessary.”

            Hmm, i think i can agree with that given how my own relations have organized themselves.

  12. Ep3

    Yves, in regards to love being a modern invention, I think anyone who has started a new job can understand my following thought. I worked in a factory. Long hours with the same ppl. At first most new employees don’t think they are starting a job for love. But whenever you put men and women together, mother nature takes over. In those confined environments, the constraints ppl try to put on their requirements for a mate disappear. It’s like being put on an interstellar ark. All of a sudden, someone that you at first thought was “ok” looking, now has become very attractive ‘for lack of variety’.
    Now my point. 2000 years ago u were born and died in the same small community of ppl. You lived and worked with these same ppl. So if you were a 16 yr old horny male and there were only 2 women left in the town (after fellow teenagers had their pick), your brain may look for a girl just like mom (where moms a redhead and short and stocky) but you end up married to a tall blonde. But today, we are free to travel anywhere on the planet. That location constraint is gone. You can seek out ‘mom’ or whoever else you want to marry.

    1. digi_owl

      As some other article here on NC touch on, once the goal of (US) life was to retire early with enough money to live in acceptable comfort for the rest of your days.

  13. Garrett Pace

    If affection is become a commodity to be sold and traded, it will go to whoever is offering the best product.

    This version of “love” isn’t (just) about money, but about keeping score. It’s another dimension, or continuum, for people to evaluate themselves and see how they are doing compared to others.

    The competitive element is incredibly destructive, and (for the insufficiently committed) futile. Fashion and beauty standards have built in exclusions that keep most people on the outside looking in. Once technology (or widespread insecurity and gyms) makes some level of achievement common, the goalposts get moved further back, and the affection and attention are still reserved for the 5% who play the game best.

    1. Garrett Pace

      I am reminded of this scene from Seinfeld, about the percentage of people who are “dateable”:

      People laughed, but a bit of a nervous laugh. Can our culture be as exclusionary as that? YES.

      And an uncomfortable realization for those in the 95% that spend their lives looking only for someone in the 5% without following the rules themselves.

  14. Garrett Pace

    I’ve also noticed with interest the increase in shame marketing aimed towards men in recent years.

    If men can be taught to treat their own bodies with anxiety and loathing, cosmetics companies can make billions of dollars off of them, just like women.

    Marketers toe a slender line getting the message across, though. See how absurd the exaggerations are in the commercial above – seems utterly fantastical, but the point is still clear, and it appears to be working.

  15. John

    Interesting, that in all this discussion of Love, there is no mention of the distinction between Unconditional Love and conditional love.
    I don’t think that Capitalism or Mr. Market can have much to teach us about Unconditional Love, whereas they are probably the experts on conditional love.

  16. rps

    Love is a chemical brain soup of feel me good hits. How do I love thee? Or as Tina Turner asks, “What’s love got to do with it?” Let me count the the chemical High-ways:estrogen or testosterone, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and vassopressin.

    Shopping and fall in love with “must haves” can release the temporary insanity love drugs dependent on one’s focus.

    1. Lambert Strether

      A “chemical brain soup”… Unlike… What, exactly?

      * * *

      With the caveat that the whole body must be involved, including the second brain, the gut, which is one of the many problems with brain scan studies.

  17. mk

    “…in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power-almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.

    Could it be that only those things are considered worthy of being learned with which one can earn money or prestige, and that love, which “only” profits the soul, but is profitless in the modern sense, is a luxury we have no right to spend energy on?”

    The Art of Loving ― Erich Fromm
    If only the world was as enlightened as Erich Fromm, what a wonderful world it could be. This is my favorite book about love, highly recommended.

    1. jrs

      I think it’s very difficult at this point to determine what is capitalism’s fault and what isn’t, mostly because very few competing systems exist (often very deliberately so mind you, I’m not saying the situation arose naturally).

      Even the bad old USSR doesn’t exist anymore. So we’re left speculating on countries with somewhat anti-capitalist policies like Venezula, pre-capitalist modes of production (from tribal level to feudalism), cooperative models like Mondragoon, and various utopian suggestions (syndicalism etc.). So therefore in a mostly capitalist globe sometimes capitalism gets hard to disentagle from the usual old baddies: western civilization, human nature, etc.

  18. diptherio

    Anthony Gidden’s contention that romantic love has replaced religious salvation caught my eye. It reminds me of an essay I wrote some years ago (whilst in the middle of ten year romantic “dry-spell”, ironically enough). Here’s what the 2005 version of me had to say on this topic:

    …It is my contention that in modern society romantic love has, in large part, usurped the place of the church and of God as the place where people turn to find meaning in their lives. The placing of romantic love on this pedestal has prove detrimental to romantic love itself and to those who have thus elevated it.

    The problem is this: romantic love, elevated to the place of supreme meaning (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) becomes a shifty sort of egoism. I regard my Love as my whole world only so long as my Love regards me as such. So long as this is the case we are happy, nay blissful, but when my Love’s attentions wander, what then? What am I to do when the meaning in my life is no longer interested in my life? How can I react when the meaning in my life is now attached to another person, one whom I don’t even know? Gut-wrenching depression or mind-numbing anger are the two most common reactions, and it’s easy to see why.

    Either the fault lies in my Love, and I have been betrayed, in which case my anger is that of the devout soul overtly betrayed by her God; or the fault is mine, I have driven God away, as it were, and what else is ther to do but weep for my sorrowful state?

    Even if our perfect loving regard for each other never wanes, the situation is only slightly improved. Then the lovers become like particle and anti-particle, springing spontaneously into existence in a vacuum, only to crash together, annihilating each other and leaving no trace of either’s existence.

    We say something has meaning when it “points” to something other than itself. If I and my Love create a closed loop of meaning, where she is my meaning and I am hers, we point to no one but ourselves and our love itself ceases to have meaning. Our love, as it were, points only to itself. We can see this lack of meaning when we examing the lovers individually. What we find is that they are, in fact, not in love with their Love, but only with their own reflection in their Love’s eyes.

    This explains the broken-hearted lover. If her truly loved his Love, would he not be happy that she should find a better lover than he? But no, his regard is not for her happiness, but his own.

    1. hunkerdown

      diptherio: “If I and my Love create a closed loop of meaning, where she is my meaning and I am hers, we point to no one but ourselves and our love itself ceases to have meaning.”

      Therefore, ceteris paribus, openly non-monogamous relationships are more meaningful than closed dyads. :)

      You weren’t perchance studying comp sci right about then, were you? My mind immediately leapt to contemplating memory management, particularly garbage collection.

      Speaking of which, old-school comp sci types, including some names you may have heard, did have a founding hand in early forms of this latest resurgence of consensual non-monogamy, and significant influence over the quasi-libertarian, Wiccan Rede trajectory of its evolution.

      1. diptherio

        No, not studying comp sci…cleaning toilets at a nursing home. Close though :)

        It’s not monogamy that’s the problem (although I’ve no problem with folks experimenting), it’s the idea that being in a romantic relationship is what gives our lives meaning. I think a romantic relationship should be a source of strength and support for all the other meaningful stuff one does with one’s life, but not the meaning itself. I hold Rom-Coms responsible for this trend in society.

  19. proinnovatoriat

    Im in love with The Swedish Forestry economies mindset.
    Im in love with the Indonesian Rice Farmers farm to table initiative.
    Im in love with Thailand’s staunch refusal to be colonized, followed by a very intellectually stimulating repurposing of all parasitic capitalist invasion; things like gold banking are called “big (silly) fradulent bai gold bank for haughty bulwarts of stolen goods~”
    Then they, (ethically corrupt inveestors and trades people) are given a big clear glass steel building (trap) to conduct their dirty business in sight of all the clean + clear eyed masses,
    who witness the orgy of for unlawful carnal knowledge unfold in major destinations of the world.
    We watch as the horrific dance unfolds, in Bangkok, on Wall Street~
    The players take their winnings and blow them on strippers and whores in Amsterdam.
    Columbia + mexico fuel the frenzy with coca leaves filtered through chloride and rat poisoning…
    They fornicate high on stimulants cut with rat poison!
    They extract hundreds if not thousands of years of ecological stability in their crazed lust for the ability to continue such a horrific dance.

    All along,
    interesting wise aliens furtively develop technologies to combat this sensory overload.
    In a generation, a computer who filled a room with his/her softcore gentle whir of data process and transmission compacts spiral like into a micro chip.
    Around it, galaxies reflect and fold unfold with just as much power.
    Slowly the orgy of men are from mars and women are from venus becomes obsolete.
    The first of the towers fall.
    Many folk wonder~”How is this aweful makinen ticking?”

    Alterntively in Uppland,
    a fir tree is felled on a plot of land set aside carefully, rationally 25 years earlier-in anticipation of the very purposeful use of projected resource requirement.
    Somewhere an angel smiles and thinks~
    “I love the way those people count what they’ve got so well.”
    May they prosper in numbers and conquer the lower beings.
    Colorado aka graceland has begun to plant forests of hemp.
    They know that the orgy in Amsterdam will be taken by the sea eventually, that the great timbers of the forests of The Americas (Amazon.California.) should no longer be sacrificed to provide beds for perversion of resource harvest.

    They know they can yield on one acre at least 30 times the amount of fiber for paper, or any other industrial use than can be yielded by the life of one old ancient old growth swath…

    There, in pairs of X + Y chromosomes,
    3 sets of homosapaiens make sweet love, deep in the fields of true abundance-
    Where the sun shines as if asunder through a crystal.
    The palmate serrate leaves cut the light in even distribution, it is distributed like the rainbow tribes of Cambodia Vietnam.
    But they are two appropriately aged men, two women, and a man and a woman.

    Their golden skin~
    Scintillating eyes~
    It is so sexually stimulating this new dance
    The gods themselves send lightning bolts shaped like diamond meteors straight to the former towers of wretched fornication.
    There is no need for the old story.
    The fields are fertile.

    King of Rock n Roll~


  20. WanderingMind

    So, here is a somewhat jaded and cynical view of the reason for marriage as we know it. In the time before genetic testing, men could not be sure which kids were theirs if they had more than one partner, and their partners had more than one partner.

    Also, those men who had property wanted to pass their property to their kids, but if there were too many of them, then that would dilute the wealth passed on.

    So, men with property took control over one woman’s body and called that woman his wife. That way he could be more secure in knowing that woman’s children were his. The wife was the only woman the man had sex with who could produce children eligible to receive his property when he died. Any other child by any other woman could not. So, men had a good time.

    Now, what would happen if women were in charge? Women do not have the problem of being unsure of who their children are, regardless of how many sexual partners they have. Also, given that there is an upper limit as to how many children each woman can give birth to, the problem with diluting one’s inheritance is not as severe for women.

    So, I submit that if women were in charge marriage would look different. Women do not need to control a man’s body the way men needed to control women’s bodies. A woman may want to make sure that her sexual partners get themselves tested for sexually transmitted disease on a regular basis, but the close supervision of the patriarchal system would not be necessary.

    The other cynical and jaded points on this subject come out of Marxist thought. In capitalism, everything is for sale. This includes ethics (banksters, anyone?) and sex. Given a sufficiently developed capitalist regime and you get Reno, Nevada.

    Finally, channeling all that random sexual activity into the family system is convenient for reproducing the working class. Mom, Dad, grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles all help in preparing the child for participation in the work force. Go ahead, borrow your child’s tuition money. But don’t send them to college to become artists or philosophers. We “need” chemists and engineers and other people who can add labor value to the capitalist machine. The market determines how you will be able to get your children educated (i.e. non-dischargeable recourse loans), guaranteeing that all involved (children and parents) jump on the labor merry-go-round and “just say no” to drugs, philosophy, art and politics.

    1. digi_owl

      Funny thing is that i read something about a a change households and families in Norway recently. With more equalized access to education and financial resources, ladies have started showing guys the door once they are pregnant. And often the same guy will do the rounds as “stud” for multiple ladies. So in a sense, the nation is turning grass root matriarchal.

  21. Lambert Strether

    Love is not romance is not lust is not filial piety is not parental feeling is not affection is not friendship is not….

    And whatever the capitalists have figured out how to sell into is (necessarily) an approximiation or a distortion.

    And on top of that throw massive personal, familial, class, and cultural differences. I don’t think we know what we’re talking about. Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior. But the heart is deceitful above all things….

      1. duggie73

        The pain’s presumably reported as being worth it because of the increase in feelings of attractiveness to one’s partner.
        Whatever you want to say is driving the behaviour here, you’d be stretching credibility to say it’s deliberate human choice, or love.

  22. Jim

    From Mexico Feb. 17, 2013 at 8:07A.M.

    Quoting Gillespie:

    “if we read ourselves as Hobbes recommends at the beginning of the Leviathan, we recognize that we and other human beings are moved by our passions….”

    Hobbes along with Hume in their respective sketching of the relationship between reason and the passions are basically offering a critique or the power of reason to transcend contingency and establish universal truths.

    Both individuals regarded the non-rational source of the passions as providing the conditional basis of reason, and determining the ends to which reason would be directed. Both men rejected the central Kantian assumption that reason can provide its own normative guidance by autonomously legislating its own end.

    More recently philosophers like Alsadair MacIntyre and Hans-George Gadamer have also questioned the idea of reason providing its own normative guidance–the idea that it is possible to adopt a reflective position prior to the very traditions that constitute one’s surroundings.

    What do you think From Mexico, was Kant assuming the chimera of perfect Enlightenment in his assumption that reason in order to claim unconditional authority had to be autonomous?

    1. from Mexico

      Do you believe Kant would have ever agreed that the social sciences are science? I doubt that he would. He certainly did not believe that morality could be given any scientific basis. And it seems to me that is all the social sciences are: one big morality play.

      As Gillespie explains,

      Hume’s skepticism was a frontal attack on rationalism. His demonstration that causality could not be logically deduced or derived from experince dealt an especially greivious blow to rationalist science. Kant perceived the power of this argument and also recognized that it could be extended to other concepts. Such a critique seemed to Kant to undermine the foundations of all knowledge. Kant, however, did not believe that Hume’s argument proved that certain knowledge was impossible. It pointed rather to the crucial failure to restrain reason to a sphere commensuate with its capacities.

      So are you straw manning Kant? It sounds to me like you are, because Kant never claimed that rationality could be used to determine morality. If so, I highly recommend Albert Einstein’s essays on the subject to clarify, which can be found here:

      Or Susan Neiman’s essay on Einstein, which can be found here:

      I agree, though, that Kant’s “island,” “the land of truth…surrounded by a wide and stormy ocean” as he put it, is rapidly disappearing. As Stephen Toulmin put it in Cosmopolis, by 1924

      no branch of the natural sciences any longer relied on support from the 17th-century faith in the rationality of Nature: all of them could stand on their own, with methods of explanation based on their own, with methods of explanation based on their own first-hand experience. From 1890 to 1910, the physicists J.J. Thomson, Albert Einstein, and Max Planck broke the links between current physical theory and earlier Newtonian orthodoxy. The new physics so created — particles smaller than the lightest atom, space and time that lack sharp-edged distinctness, matter and energy that seemed interchangeable — undercut the last pretence that Euclidian geometry and Newtonian mechanics are certain, final, and indispensable to the raitonal understanding of Nature.

      But, as Gillespie argues very persuasively, empiricism, such as that of Hobbes, is also a defective way to arrive at morality. As Jonathan Haidt points out, our emotive centers of the brain give us moral intutitions and “studies of everyday reasoning show that we usually use reason to search for evidence to support our initial judgment, which was made in milliseconds.”

      We aggressively seek out evidence that confirms our initial emotive judgments, and reject evidence that does not. And we call that “empiricism” in the social sciences.

      So where does that leave us when it comes to moral judgments? I believe it leaves us back with Kant. And did Kant believe there were moral absolutes? No, he did not.

      Can you propose a better method than Kant’s for arriving at moral judgments? And if not, just what are you advocating? Passive nihilism?

    2. JTFaraday

      Maybe it’s because it’s expurgated, but I can’t make heads or tails of this pretentious Gillespian philobabble.

      Like I said the other day, it is quite clear that almost no one taking the names of Calvin and Hobbes in vain have actually read Calvin and Hobbes.

      Most likely, almost no one reads Hume and Kant either, and certainly not unfiltered by the prejudices of current academic fashion in the departments of philobabblery.

      Let’s see what Kant himself himself has to say about “Enlightenment”:

      “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere aude.) “Have the courage to use your own understanding,” is therefore the motto of the enlightenment”…

  23. Chris Engel

    While I think polyamory is fine and well and the law should respect those constructs…

    In a political environment where equal marriage rights for homosexuals is a split issue, it’s a bit premature to start talking about the rights of those who lead a polyamorus family construct.

    It feeds the reductio ad absurdum that conservatives use to say “WELL IF GAYS WILL MARRY THEN U ARE GOING TO WANT TO MARRY A HORSE OR A STAPLER!”

    One thing at a time.

    Liberals always strike out when they get carried away in their progressive agenda and start talking about issues that the mainstream isn’t quite calibrated to embrace.

    Let’s not be loser liberals yet again…

    1. JTFaraday

      “In a political environment where equal marriage rights for homosexuals is a split issue, it’s a bit premature to start talking about the rights of those who lead a polyamorus family construct.”

      I don’t have anything at all invested in your wholly phantacized nonsequitor. If anything I hold the principle of full rights bearing individuals and screw the special privileges that accrue to people only by doing that which the state demands, like f***ing.

      But the real thing that makes liberals losers is that they allow the horizons of what it is possible to think and talk about get defined by narrowest and most authoritarian members of our unfortunate collective.

      If you had your way, all our brains would be the size of peas.

      Meanwhile, if the state and corporations (not to be repetitive) demand f***ing in order to vest people with special privileges, you’ve got it, baby!

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