Buying Up Love

Continuing on from the first lecture, where we established that Paris is widely regarded as a romantic city, the city of love; in this session the concept of love itself was the focus. In the 12th Century in France, a musical group called the Troubadours travelled from court to court, playing music about the nature of marriage which was heavily based on class. Love existed and was defined in 12th Century France as adultery, the singers sung about the exciting, secret love that inspired affairs. It was this interpretation of love through language that allowed us to create an understanding of it, ‘love’ didn’t exist until the Troubadours actually created the definition.

We got into our project groups and were asked two questions:

  1. What is our understanding of love?
  2. How does this change with influence from culture, institutions, social relationships

Our group response was as follows…


  • commitment
  • exclusive
  • priority
  • romantic/platonic different types of love
  • stable relationship
  • sacrifice
  • compromising/tolerance
  • responsibility
  • deep meaningful connection
  • obsessive
  • shared interests


  • In Nigeria, before it was about marriage then love grows, but now it’s more about love first
  • Where economic power lies between the sexes, that has influence on what the status on marriage and love is
  • In history in England there were arranged marriages in classes
  • In religion, the Christian church structures love to be eternal and secured by marriage, making the vows to each other
  • As equality grows between men and women in a society, women have a greater choice to choose when to get married, or whether they want to at all


Everyone has different understanding of love, and it is really important to appreciate that love is full of complexity. Two things to avoid are the idea that love is universal, that everyone will fall in love find ‘the one’, which they will continue to love with the same intensity forever. Similar to this it is important not to go the other way and maintain that love is an evil notion, simply created by capitalists for their own game. Something like love which doesn’t have a concrete definition, or a physical manifestation we can all understand in the same way, there needs to be a variance and an acceptance that people’s definitions and interpretations will be different.

Eva Illouz is a female theorist interested in the way society and capitalism creates the context for you to ‘feel’.  Her book Consuming the Romantic Utopia is available online in the Coventry library, it was highly recommended so I will definitely be reading it to find out more about this concept. Illouz states that capitalism hasn’t destroyed love, it has exacerbated it; created more ways for us to feel and interpret/understand those feeling. In addition to capitalism, Illouz also believes that consumerism doesn’t get rid of those original emotions. In Britain, the leisure class were those originally targeted by capitalism and consumerism related to the concept of love. The railways, the printing press and the telephone were utilised as sources of promoting love through romantic trips away, romantic novels and the encouragement to develop a relationship with people over the phone. It is these structures of feelings which is how institutions create the ‘feelings of the age’, in contemporary society there a number of structures which influence the way we ‘feel’. Contemporary structures we identified as a group in a discussion were family, social media, class, race, nation, and commercial influences such as TV, film and music videos.

To understand how these structures are created and maintained we were introduced to two concepts that are intertwined and interdependent.

  1. The romanticisation of commodities
  2. The commodification of romance

These together create and develop the intensification of emotion.


Romanticisation of commodities refers to the romanticisation of items, for example these two chewing gum adverts, which imply that this product is the key to finding romance.


There are so many objects that have romantic associations to them such as hearts, flowers, chocolates and even the colour red. This concept is something that companies have held on to and utilised as a selling method, which in turn encourages the continuation and development of these associations. Celebrity culture has many associations with romance, as we can relate to these people and even feel like we know them because of the huge media following which details their lives. Cities have romantic notions assigned to it, this is largely because this city is a massive place of consumption. The final step of this process of romanticising objects is naturalisation; although we are assigning a romantic value to an inanimate object, the notion has become accepted in society as the norm. Love and consumption become inseparable now, we also love our objects, as is demonstrated in digital culture.


The very experience of love has changed now, intimate relationships have become public with PDA’s (Public Displays of Affection) becoming widely encouraged as a normal element of a loving relationship. We are also not supposed to just love other people and objects, we are also supposed to love our work, with acronyms like DWYL (Do What You Love) dictating and encouraging this concept. Within this idea there have been attempts to quantify this love and enthusiasm for the job, a ‘smile for the camera’ system created by Omron was established in a Japanese station, where employee’s smiles were scanned and their happiness evaluated and quantified.



In project groups, choose a film, an object and a city, discuss the romanticisation of the commodity and the commodification of romance in relation to each one. Then make a vlog (video blog) which covers your analysis of each element and post a link of the published video by Monday evening.


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