The institutional logics of love: measuring intimate life

Abstract

Building on a long tradition of measuring cultural logics from a relational perspective, we analyze a recent survey of American university students to assess whether institutional logics operate in the lived experience of individuals. An institutional logic is an analytic troika of object, practice, and subject linked together through dually ordered systems of articulations. Using the formal method of correspondence analysis (MCA) we identify two latent dimensions that order physical, verbal, emotional, categorical, and moral practices of and investments in love. We take these dimensions as evidence of an institutional logic. The dominant first dimension is organized through talk of love, non-genital physical intimacies, and affective investment. It has no sexual specificity. The subsidiary second dimension is organized through moral investment and it has a genital sexual specificity. There is little difference between women and men, either in the way these dimensions are organized or in the location of men and women within these dimensionalized spaces. We find that romantic love has a situated material effect in terms of increasing the probabilities of orgasm.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In contrast, the eminent historian of the conventions of American courtship prefaces her book this way: “the word love scarcely appears in the following pages. This is not because I have a cynical view of the subject but because love was not so much the province of convention. Convention looked to a multiplicity of desires, not to love itself. It structured and controlled the manifestation of sexual desire and the desires for security, for status, for a clear role in society—even the desire for love. Love and desire are intertwined, but I will leave love to lovers in private and examine the public conventions of desire” (Bailey 2013, p. 12).

  2. 2.

    Institutional logics refer to materialized languages, not just to linguistic speech, but to constellations of unit acts, concepts, objects, and relations. Note that this article builds on but also goes beyond earlier theoretical and empirical work that we have published on the formal analysis of institutional logics as duality structures (e.g., Mohr and Duquenne 1997; Breiger and Mohr 2004; Mohr and White 2008; Mohr and Neeley 2009; Mohr and Guerra-Pearson 2010).

  3. 3.

    In his classic book, Substance and Function, Cassirer identifies substantialism with its presumption that abstraction occurs in the sorting of things, according to common features, into taxonomic hierarchies, as species and genus. “Just as we form the concept of a tree by selecting from the totality of oaks, beaches and birch trees, the group of common properties, so, in exactly the same way, we form the concept of a plane rectangular figure by isolating the common properties which are found in the square, the right angle, rhomboid” (p. 5). Cassirer criticizes substantialism from multiple angles, including the classic Kantian critique that the theory cannot account for its own principles of differentiation. But also because, in a fashion that prefigures both Gaston Bachelard and Thomas Kuhn, Cassirer suggests that the logic of substantialism defines and limits one’s scientific thinking and thus prevents one from being capable of understanding the relational foundations of reality (Cassirer 1910; Martin 2011; Mohr 2010).

  4. 4.

    Bourdieu writes: “It is for the purpose of breaking with this substantialist mode of thinking, and not for the thrill of sticking a new label on old theoretical wineskins, that I speak of this “field of power” rather than of the dominant class, the latter being a realist concept designating an actual population of holders of this tangible reality that we call power. By field of power, I mean the relations of force that obtain between the social positions that guarantee their occupants a quantum of social force, or of capital, such that they are able to enter into the struggles over the monopoly of power, of which struggles over the definition of the legitimate form of power are a crucial dimension” (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992 pp. 229–230).

  5. 5.

    There is a deep and complex genealogy of relationalism running through Bourdieu’s thought. It includes a reading of Marx, Durkheim, and Simmel as well as an appreciation of the tradition of cultural analysis that begins with Saussurian (and Pierceian) semiotics. But there is also a very explicit embrace of Cassirer’s philosophical stance of relationalism, which extends also through Bourdieu’s appreciation of Lewin’s field theory (Martin 2003, 2011; Mohr 2010, 2013).

  6. 6.

    This approach obviously has a kinship with and has been partially inspired by Michel Foucault’s methodological project in the second volume of the History of Sexuality, where he lays out the elements of his analysis of Greek sexuality: ethical substance, mode of subjectification, ethical work, and telos. Foucault centers his analysis on the ethical relation to self (Foucault 1990, p. 251).

  7. 7.

    Friedland 2013; Thornton et al. 2012.

  8. 8.

    Useful extensions of Bourdieu’s ideas about field theory and the social organization of sexual capital have been developed by Martin (2003, 2014; Martin and George 2006) and also in a somewhat different fashion in a series of works by Adam Green and colleagues (2011, 2014; Leschziner and Green 2013). While we find much that is admirable in this work, we also see some of the same limitations that we complain about in Bourdieu, including a tendency to define the field primarily as a site of hierarchy, competition, and contestation that is constructed around the use and accumulation of sexual capital. While we agree that such competitions and forms of capital operate within the field, we contend that they do so only within the context of a set of intersecting institutional logics that serve to orient and to anchor the production, consumption, and deployment of these capitals.

  9. 9.

    One of the major contributions of Thornton, Ocasio, and Lounsbury’s book on institutional logic is their development of theories regarding the micro-mechanisms of logics (2012).

  10. 10.

    The integral relationship between ontology and emotion is pointed to in Clifford Geertz’s definition of religion: “A religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing those conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.” Geertz, “Religion as a Cultural System,” (Geertz 1977, pp. 87–125.

  11. 11.

    The ends of a game are illusory, given by entry into the game, by competition, by being “taken in by the game” (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992, p. 98).

  12. 12.

    This recalls Bourdieu’s understanding of habitus: “The doxic relation to the native world is a relationship of belonging and possession in which the body possessed by history appropriates immediately the things inhabited by the same history. Only when the heritage has taken over the inheritor can the inheritor take over the heritage.” The predecessors, whose pedagogy assure the heritage, are “possessed possessors” (Bourdieu 2000, p. 152).

  13. 13.

    Creed et al. (forthcoming) have pointed to a complementary emotion, that of shame, which they treat as a systemic attribute of institutional life, which both disciplines the lovable and is a lived by-product of institutional contradiction. An adequate account will have to integrate both positive and negative aspects of subjective engagement, the pleasures of possession and the displeasures of failure to be possessed, to identify and dis-identify, beyond the distributive question of one’s ability and inability to possess.

  14. 14.

    Cole Porter’s lyrics include: “What is this thing called love/this funny thing called love/just who can solve its mystery/why should it make a fool of me?”

  15. 15.

    As Stephanie Coontz points out, in many cultures of the world “love was seen as a desirable outcome of marriage but not as a good reason for getting married in the first place.” (Coontz 2005, p. 18).

  16. 16.

    Indeed it was only at the end of the twentieth century that the majority of American women declared that love was the most important factor in mate choice (Coontz 2005, p. 186).

  17. 17.

    Dating, Bailey argues, was about sexual desire and popularity, not about love or even marriage.

  18. 18.

    This article is in part inspired by the challenge of Boltanski and Thévenot’s “orders of worth,” belonging not to groups, organizations, or institutions, but to situations. We here study the practical order of situated moments, rather than perduring hegemonic orders observed in socially regionalized domains of actions. To begin with, Thévenot would not consider love to be an institution, exterior, accountable, and rule-bound, a “regime of engagement” not raising to the level of public justification and a common good, but having a kinship with the attachments of familiarity (Thévenot 2011). But even if one accepts that the applicability of institutional logic to “romantic love,” this project is incommensurable to theirs in other ways. Institutional logics, unlike Boltanski and Thévenot’s orders of worth, did not derive from, nor delimit, a set of political grammars by which members reached agreement over evaluation (Boltanski and Thévenot 2006). We are not studying polities in which disputes must be resolved. Although this has been left undeveloped in the institutional logical approach, we both insist on the ways in which materiality—even if it is corporeality—constitute and are constituted by value. While both our approaches insist on the role of material practice, material objects in economies of worth operate both to stabilize the fitness of a situation and as media through which evaluation based on an unobservable “worth” takes place, whereas Friedland’s institutional logical approach understands material practice to be a medium through which an unobservable “substance” is produced or enacted, more in the manner of the “teleological” side of Max Weber’s value rationality (Friedland 2014, unpublished; Arjaliès and Friedland 2014, unpublished). Although we here study the practical order of moments, they are not moments of contest over worthiness—of whether and how much one loves or is loved—resolved through tests, but moments of enactment manifest in corporeal practice. Finally, Thévenot has since developed a theory of “regimes of engagement,” beyond, or rather below, to which something like “love” would be assimilated in that they cannot and do not need to break into words, into publicness, into bases of agreement (Thévenot 2011). This exercise seeks to apply an institutional logical approach to a “private” order of practice in which agreement is dyadic at best. This does not mean, however, that love is not a “collective good.”

  19. 19.

    On this last point, Ronald Breiger (personal communication, January, 2014) reminds us of an example from Bourdieu’s own analysis of the French university field. Bourdieu interpreted the two dominant dimensions of his correspondence analysis as expressing “… two antagonistic principles of hierarchization: the social hierarchy, corresponding to the capital inherited and the economic and political capital actually held, is in opposition to the specific, properly cultural hierarchy, corresponding to the capital of scientific authority or intellectual renown. This opposition is inherent in the very structures of the university field which is the locus of confrontation between two competing principles of legitimation” (1988 [1984], p. 48).

  20. 20.

    As Boltanski and Thévenot have stressed, in a given situation people must choose what orders of worth on which to draw and it is the viability of that choice that provides them with critical capacity (2006).

  21. 21.

    We use “romantic love” here as a members’ category that not only permeates popular culture consumed by emerging adults in the United States, but to which students interviewed as part of this project repeatedly refer either as a given or something constructed, a “fiction.” Thévenot objects to the category because of the way it “destroys the object,” creating an ironic distance from love, not unlike the way one would speak of a “religious zealot” (personal communication, February, 2014).

  22. 22.

    Garrow and Hasenfeld (2014) are an exception. In their study of nonprofit human service agencies, they emphasize how these organizations differ in their operations as a result of the practical orderings of enacted institutional logics, the specific character of which can only be understood in the context of their anchoring in deep level framings of moral principles and sentiments. See Haveman and Rao 1997, for an earlier argument leading in this direction.

  23. 23.

    Compare with recent work in cultural sociology showing how culture and social networks co-produce one another (e.g., Lizardo 2006; Pachucki and Breiger 2010; Vaisey and Lizardo 2010).

  24. 24.

    However, for us, it is not a qualification of a being, here as a beloved or a lover, as one would do in tests that constitute the central mechanism in conventions of worth (Boltanski and Thévenot 2006), but a production of an institutional object—a substance—through bodily practice, categorical attribution and affect. Institutional logics are more like performative production functions of particular qualities than they are distributive qualifications of beings based on an exogenous value.

  25. 25.

    The survey was conducted by the UCSB Social Science Survey Center.

  26. 26.

    The abandon rate for this survey was relatively high (thirty-two percent, likely due to the length of the questionnaire.

  27. 27.

    Six percent of the sample who identified themselves as gay, lesbian, queer, or bi-sexual were included in these analyses.

  28. 28.

    We used SPAD (Version 7.4) for these analyses.

  29. 29.

    Ronald Breiger reminds us that an MCA is not capturing the equivalent of p(x,y), the proportion of all people who are both x and y, but rather p(x,y) – [p(x) * p(y)], the size of the overlap “over and above” the size predicted by statistical independence (personal communication, Jan. 2014).

  30. 30.

    The total inertia is identical to Pearson’s chi-square statistic divided by the sample size (N).

  31. 31.

    We opted for the “French” way of doing MCA as it is championed by Le Roux and Rouanet (2004, 2010); also see Roose et al. (2012). In simplest terms, we have taken the most important modalities that define the first dimension and plotted those in the plane of the first two dimensions of the MCA (Figure 2) and then we have done the same with the most important modalities that define the second dimension (see Figure 3).

  32. 32.

    Indeed, if there are just two modalities for a variable (“disjunctive coding”), it is possible to norm the axes so that, by definition, the two modalities have coordinates that, if connected by a straight line, go through the origin. Thanks again to Ronald Breiger for his comments on this issue.

  33. 33.

    This may have something to do with the technical and reduced way in which we have posed questions about respondents’ sexual practices.

  34. 34.

    The overwhelming majority of American college students do not see it this way. Asked whether “romantic love brainwashes women,” only 28 % even partly agreed (Friedland and Gardinali 2013, p. 73). And, in an analysis of these women, contrary to what one would expect from Tolman’s analysis, those women who are suspicious of romantic love were no more likely to have had an orgasm during their last sexual encounter than those who were not critical of romantic love.

  35. 35.

    Concentration ellipses are geometric summaries of sub-clouds—here: for men and women—in a principal plane (see Le Roux and Rouanet 2010, pp. 69–71).

  36. 36.

    To measure the “effect” of gender, we projected the mean points on the X- and Y-axes and divided these by the square root of the Eigenvalue of each axis. This provides measures of deviations between mean category points in terms of standard deviations per axis, or what are known technically as standardized deviations of modality mean points for supplementary variables. A number larger than 1 is big. Ours results were 0.26 for axis 1 and 0.50 for axis 2. The gender differences are small.

  37. 37.

    There is also a possibility that those who engage in sexless love, excluded from the sample, are gendered, an exclusion that might affect our inference about the gendering of the logics of love. We have yet to examine this possibility.

  38. 38.

    Orgasm did not organize either dimension in our model. The absence of orgasm from the ordering suggests it is not an element of either logic. Hence arises our curiosity to see what individual variables independently explain its variation.

  39. 39.

    We measured attachment with a construct assembled from a small battery of questions that asked respondents to rate on a 1–7 scale (from ‘Not at all like me’ to ‘Very much like me’) as to whether a statement such as “It is easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t worry about being alone or having others not accept me” or “I am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient, and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me.”

  40. 40.

    Whether such intimate talk was a consequence or a cause of orgasm we obviously cannot determine with these data.

  41. 41.

    Martin’s (2011) discussion of the problem of latent forces in both the theory and method of field analysis provides a brilliant discussion of the dilemmas that are at stake in this kind of analytic problem. We are also interested in methodological programs such as Geometric Data Analysis (Roose forthcoming) as tools that can perhaps help us to visualize even more clearly the relational logics that operate at these levels of institutional experience.

  42. 42.

    In future analysis, we will examine the extent to which dimensionalities of practice and subjectivity vary by the category of the relationship in which they take place.

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Acknowledgments

An early version of this article was presented at the American Sociological Association Meeting in New York (2013) at a panel organized by Paul McLean. We thank Emilio J. Castilla, Jan Fuhse, Yonie Harris, Johannes Hjellbrekke, Michael Lounsbury, and Steve Vaisey for their comments and suggestions on this work and the Office of the Dean of Students at UCSB for their support. We are particularly indebted to Ronald Breiger and Laurent Thévenot for their exegetical, theoretical, and methodological engagement with our work, and to William Ocasio and Patricia Thornton for their detailed critiques of the manuscript. Unless attributed, all interpretation and opinions are those of the authors.

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Friedland, R., Mohr, J.W., Roose, H. et al. The institutional logics of love: measuring intimate life. Theor Soc 43, 333–370 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-014-9223-6

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Keywords

  • Institutional logic
  • Romantic love
  • MCA
  • Institutional substance
  • Institutional practice
  • Institution and emotion