Has Marriage for Love Failed
Has Marriage for Love Failed
Today we like to think that marriage is a free choice based on love: that we freely choose whom to marry and that we do so, not so much for survival or social advantage, but for love. The invention of marriage for love inverted the old relationship between love and marriage. In the past, marriage was sacred, and love, if it existed at all, was a consequence of marriage; today, love is sacred and marriage is secondary. But now marriage appears to be becoming increasingly superfluous. For the past forty years or so, the number of weddings has been declining, the number of divorces exploding and the number of unmarried individuals and couples growing, while single-parent families are becoming more numerous. Love has triumphed over marriage but now it is destroying it from inside. So has the ideal of marriage for love failed, and has love finally been liberated from the shackles of marriage?

In this brilliant and provocative book Pascal Bruckner argues that the old tension between love and marriage has not been resolved in favour of love, it has simply been displaced onto other levels. Even if it seems more straightforward, the contemporary landscape of love is far from euphoric: as in the past, infidelity, loss and betrayal are central to the plots of modern love, and the disenchantment is all the greater because marriages are voluntary and not imposed. But the collapse of the ideal of marriage for love is not necessarily a cause for remorse, because it demonstrates that love retains its subversive power. Love is not a glue to be put in the service of the institution of marriage: it is an explosive that blows up in our faces, dynamite pure and simple.
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  • October 2013
  • 96 pages
  • 130 x 199 mm / 5 x 8 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $19.95
  • 9780745669786
  • Open eBook $16.00
  • 9780745683836
Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 The Catastrophe of the Wedding Night 1

2 Divorce, a ‘Judaic Poison’ 8

3 The Nuptial Utopia 15

4 From Forbidden Love to Obligatory Love 21

5 The Pathologies of the Ideal 28

6 Honey and Hemlock 35

7 The Round of Disappointed Lovers 40

8 Towards Separation in a State of Euphoria? 44

9 A Ministry of Broken Hearts? 50

10 An Agony Amidst Glory 57

11 The Liberating Tradition 62

12 Restoring Reason to Sentiment 68

13 Together, Separated 75

14 The Defeat of Prometheus 79

The Sweetness of Life 85

About the Author
Pascal Bruckner is the best-selling author of many books including The Tyranny of Guilt, Perpetual Euphoria and The Paradox of Love. He writes regularly for Le Nouvel Observateur.
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"In this excellent little book, French philosopher Pascal Bruckner suggests that the very terms in which the argument against traditional marriage was made have served to undermine modern marriage."
The Australian

"This small, wise book takes on a very large question: why has modern marriage failed so catastrophically, so dramatically? With his usual eloquence, irony and taste for paradox, Pascal Bruckner carefully exposes the roots of the problem and argues that despite our modern 'realism' about love and sexuality, we have idealized and overburdened the institution and practice of marriage to an impossible extent. To be married today, Bruckner tells us, is nothing short of a Promethean task. For those interested in the cultural history of the institution and a meditation on our current malaise - our current crisis? - Has Marriage for Love Failed? is a must- read."
Richard J. Golsan, Texas A&M University

"For forty years, historians and sociologists have gradually been uncovering the history of private life, and especially of marriage for love.  Pascal Bruckner examines their work, beginning with the key question 'Is marriage for love finished?' - on which he casts a penetrating eye."
Luc Ferry, author of On Love and Learning to Live: A User’s Manual

"Pascal Bruckner puts his finger on the social and existential question of the moment: can marriage be combined with enduring love?  This is not a self-help book but rather the work of an astute writer and philosopher, written with elegance and style."
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