As leading religious figures like Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, continue to advance a global dialogue on wealth inequality, capitalism, and faith in Jesus Christ, Giles Fraser offers a perspective on love in the deregulated marketplace of late modernity. Ahead of Valentine’s day, Fraser invites us to consider those who may be without a date:
There is a political dimension to the ghastly Valentine’s Day and it goes something like this. The political climate of late modernity is characterised by an emphasis on choice and individual responsibility. And, yes, much good has come of it. Those rules of social engagement that maintained a place for everything and everything in its place were, for the lucky ones, the scaffolding of meaningful lives, and for many more unfortunate others, the forces of repression.
Class is an obvious example. It structured social relationships and provided many with their role in life. Those of us who want to tear down class structures – and I still do – ought nonetheless to face the fact that this deconstruction, precisely because it wipes away a whole social matrix, creates in many an intense form of anxiety about who they are and what they are for. In other words, figuring out one’s role in life becomes an individual responsibility rather than a social given and this presents the individual with a set of pressures that are not uncomplicated…
This should not surprise us if we think of the malaise of late modernity as being one of deracination, rootlessness. In such a context – or should I say lack of context – love easily dwindles to some semi-inarticulate talk of personal chemistry. The idea that we might premise a relationship on so narrow a shelf as this may well account for the number of couples who will be out to dinner next week, furtively searching for something missing in each other’s eyes, and baffled by the fact that they don’t have anything to say to each other. Love requires a broader social infrastructure than the one provided by individual feelings. In other words, when it comes to understanding love, we need less psychology and more sociology. I guess this is why some still argue for the success of arranged marriages. After all, the success rate of love matches is hardly anything to write home about.
For more from Fraser, check out the current edition of the London Guardian’s Loose Canon.