The nature or essence of love is a subject of frequent debate, but if I want to describe it abstractly, I would like to say that love is a less-sexual and more emotionally intimate form of romantic attachment, which has a quintessential function to keep both human and non human beings together against odds and facilitates the continuation of the species.
“Let ‘loving’ (to philein) be wishing for someone that he deems good, for the sake of that person and not oneself, and the accomplishment of these things to the best of one’s ability”
According to Aristotle, love is a compassionate feeling that one has for the other without any self interest. And it’s true that if we assemble all the different views on love, we will find views agreeing with this selfless nature of love.
Ancient Greek philosophers identified five forms of love: familial love, friendly love or platonic love, romantic love, guest love and divine love; but nowadays most of these spheres of love have become commercial. Today’s love is a commodity, something that is sold, exchanged, bought, consumed in self interest, need, ego. Love has become a commodity to which men and women accept and allow their selves to accommodate to this selfishness, just like we have accepted the money system for the accommodation of humanity to survival in complete disrespect and disregards for life, we, consciously or unconsciously, are buying and selling love for our self interest. As Philip James Bailey said, “the sweetest joy, the wildest woe is love.” ; this love has become more ‘wildest woe’ and less ‘sweetest joy’.
The commercialization of love is interminably dematerializing the commercial and economical stimuli of our daily life. On discussing the commodification of the idea of love, I would like to compare it with Habermas’ theory which is helpful to understand the discussion of the relationship between the market and love. From the model of a two-tiered society postulated by Habermas, comprising the sphere of the systems and the life-world, Frankfurt School found that when romantic stimuli made with commercial purposes enter the daily life of lovers, it causes an undesired colonization of the life-world, thus reaffirming the irrevocable contradiction between the economy and love, and that is the issue we are facing in our everyday modern life and we are also accepting this commodification.
The theme of commercialization, or commodification of love, is well analysed in Consuming the Romantic Utopia of Eva Illouz, the professor of sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she described how capitalism has transformed emotional patterns and how romantic love has changed to the newly expanding mass markets of leisure. This change has led to the creation of a new process called romanticization of commodities, that is a process in which commodities play a crucial role in experiencing emotions, such as love or romance, and these commodities of any kind, such as jewelry, household appliances, and other expensive gifts are advertised in newspapers, magazines and also in movies as essential things that will enable people to fully experience romance; in this way love has become such a advantageous commodity for some specific group of people in our society. Throughout the book, Illouz also deals with another process: the commodification of love. She states that the practice of ‘dating’ replaced the practice of ‘calling on a woman’ and going to her parents’ house and it has moved romantic encounters from the home sphere to the sphere of consumption, that is going out on a date, for example, to the cinema or to have dinner in a fancy restaurant, the fact which again proves that how love has become a thing to be sold and consumed.
The American writer, Hochschild, in her essay “Love and Gold”, explains that the world is facing a particular global trend: care and love importation from poor countries to rich countries is increasing rapidly. It is seen that the upper class families invite nannies to displace their love towards their own children. The love that nannies express, once migrated, towards children, is partially produced in the richer countries, and it is mostly the outcome of money, ideology, loneliness and yearning for their sons and daughters. The suffering of these women is not visible to the nannies’ employers; they just focus on the love that nannies show towards their children. Therefore, nanny’s love becomes a ‘thing’ itself. By isolating the concept of care from the context in which is produced, we unconsciously separate the logic of nanny’s love from the economic and capitalist context in which is created.
The predominance of monetary issues and selfishness in love has become the driving force even in our familial and societal life. Sometimes we find truth too bitter to accept, but we cannot deny the existence of such reality. It can be sometimes observed that even parental love is divided due to self interest, and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is the best example of it. In the novella, we can see that when Gregor Samsa, an active healthy man, transformed into a ‘monstrous vermin’, and found himself incapable of providing financial assistance to his family, his family began to neglect him and torture him and make himself confined in a store room. Finally, he ended up dying of starvation before sunrise, but he did not embrace his death before realising the truth that his financial inability has made him unwanted for his family. He was wanted as long as he could support his family.
So, love is sold as a commodity in everywhere and we have made ourselves accustomed to such sickening idea of love. While going through this commodification of love, many lives on earth knowingly or unknowingly are lost due to profit and abuse. In contemporary societies, where economy dominates all the spheres of our lives, love is also judged on the scale of economic solvency and thus the lack of this created parameter often creates collisions between husband and wife, children and parents, individual and society, thus love is sold. If love is an eternal passion beyond any interest or profit, why is it necessary to buy expensive gifts for our beloved ones to make him/her happy, why is it necessary to be economically well established to be loved in a family, and why it is necessary to be a rich citizen to get the attention and love of a society?
Recently I have come across a short poem named “Love is a Commodity” which I want to share, as this poem is so relatable to this topic and gives some ideas to comprehend how love is sold as a commodity and how the commodification of the idea of love has poured it’s hefty doze in our everyday life:
“Love is a commodity
displayed on shelves
and racks of grocery stores,
purchased on cash registers
with pennies coated with tears
and bills made of souls.”