“However much the decline of arranged marriages is held up in this part of the globe as a sign of progress and enlightenment (including, lately, as propaganda for modernity when seeking to score political points against Islam), however much it flatters our illusions of independence to imagine that we get to love whomever and however we please, this story starts to unravel if you look too closely. Economic rationality was hardly eliminated when individuals began choosing their own mates instead of leaving the job to parents; it plays as much of a role as ever. Despite all the putative freedom, the majority of us select partners remarkably similar to ourselves- economically, and in social standing, education, and race. That is, we choose ‘appropriate’ mates, and we precisely calculate their assets, with each party gauging just how well they can do on the open market, knowing exactly their own exchange value and that of prospective partners… The real transformation of modern love, as sociologist Eva Iluouz points out, comes with the fact that ranking mates for material and social assets is now incorporated into the psychology of love and unconscious structures of desire, with individuals having now internalized the economic rationality once exerted by parents, thus ‘freely’ falling in love with mates who are also- coincidentally- good investments.”
“[W]hy has modern love developed in such a way as to maximize submission and minimize freedom, with so little argument about it? No doubt a citizenry schooled in renouncing desires- and whatever quantities of imagination and independence they come partnered with- would be, in many respects, advantageous: note that the conditions of lovability are remarkably convergent with those of a cowed workforce and a docile electorate. But if the most elegant forms of social control are those that come packaged in the guise of individual needs and satisfactions, so wedded to the individual psyche that any opposing impulse registers as the anxiety of unlovability, who needs a policeman on every corner? How very convenient that we’re so willing to police ourselves and those we love, and call it living happily ever after.
Perhaps a secular society needed another metaphysical entity to subjugate itself to after the death of God, and love was available for the job. But isn’t it a little depressing to think we’re somehow incapable of inventing forms of emotional life based on anything other than subjugation?”
“[B]anished thoughts include comparing the unfreedoms we subscribe to in personal life and the unfreedoms we oppose in political life. Or, as another noted comedian, Isaac Berlin, once put it: If an individual votes himself into slavery and thus gives up his freedom, is this really political liberty?”
“[I]t remains a baleful fact that making happiness any sort of an open political demand- or even just a demand of politicians- is a dangerous thing. But at least there was adultery, the current secret code for wanting something more. Adultery, whatever its inherent problems- as with other supplements and shopping sprees and pleasure quests- is at least a reliable way of proving to ourselves that we’re not in the ground quite yet, especially when feeling a little dead inside. Or at least until a better solution comes along.”