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Has Marriage for Love Failed? [Hardcover]

Pascal Bruckner
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Sep 2013
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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Product details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press; 1 edition (13 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745669786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745669786
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 13.1 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 610,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"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." Hebdo  

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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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I can rather imagine sitting at Pascal Bruckner's feet outside a Paris cafe on the left bank, sipping espresso and drawing on Gitanes - there's something very gallic about this accessible but fascinating and provocative exploration of a difficult subject. This extended essay is readable, thoughtful and fair (on the whole). He has few illusions about where we've found ourselves in post-Enlightenment Europe - and perhaps the French do understand the effects and fall-out of the Enlightenment better than most. After all, they cast off the shackles of the ancien regime far more rigorously and thoroughly than anyone else (including their revolutionary co-belligerents, the United States).

The problem here is simple: "Married life used to be a prison cell; now it seems to be transforming itself into a sobering-up cell. We have not found the remedy for the sufferings of love, any more than our ancestors did." (p27) One of the problems is having expelled God from our garden, we have nothing to put in His place, and are adrift - especially when it comes to the liberation of human relationships. So "we have `liberated' love, and now we have to teach it, in all its richness and refinements, to a younger generation corrupted by the twofold discourse of cheap romanticism and X-rated films." (p55)

There's no going back of course: "These days, we are more alone because we are more free, even if this freedom is accompanied by anxiety; it is not clear that we would tolerate the constraints and petty annoyances that obtained in earlier times.... The pious stability that we admire in past centuries was a stability of coercion that we would not longer want.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do it For Love ! 15 Oct 2013
By Duncurin VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
An amazing book, wonderfully-bound with a lovely tactile paper, binding and dimensions. It's also been beautifully translated, and the person who did so must have an amazing command of French, and, of course, English.

Grudgingly, I have to admit that it is an efficiently argued and cogent case that is laid down: and I really could not disagree with anyone who read this book and fully accepts the, sometimes tongue in cheek, arguments wholesale, without further ado. For, of course, in our modern world marriage as well as love is under more threat than ever before and it is perhaps reasonable for us no longer to talk of marriage but a stable caring relationship? I realise that this is almost a `resistance is futile' moment and we should simply get on with our lives, have our affairs and our divorces and not worry about those quaint old customs that are now as out of date as an Advanced Gas Cooled reactor - consign it to the skip and let's get on and think about more important credit fuelled, money orientated, quick thrill and rapidly gratifying existences.

Before you all phone your solicitors, however, I wonder if I could beg an opposing view. I worry that people are less happy now than ever before. The number of counselling appointments, referrals to psychologist, Relate that I make and yes, in truth, the number of prescriptions I dish out for Prozac is at an all time high and you know I am going to tell you that it's accelerating! My other worry is that an increasing number of wonderful, pretty, handsome, intelligent and amazing children; are being disenfranchised by adults who are behaving as - anything but adults! I had a little boy in my surgery last week; he has three brothers all born to different fathers none of whom are still around.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting little book 20 Feb 2014
By Jay Rainbow VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Has Marriage for love failed? What a question. I had to get the book just to find out its views! Whilst I don't fully agree with 100% of the book I do feel that reading it has been worthwhile. Certainly it was a very interesting notion to contemplate as an unmarried woman in my twenties.

It's not a particularly long book, only took me a couple of hours to read and I really went over it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Raises an important viewpoint 20 Feb 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is an interesting subject. I think it can be expanded to include any relationship though.

I like to think that a relationship allows both partners to evolve and become their better selves.

Will love endure this journey? Yes if your with the right partner.

Marriage is more than love. It's a union of 2 people who choose to share the journey of life together.

Love has many shades. Even a love for a partner. This can often be confused with desire.

A nice short read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beuatiful prose, concise and observant 9 Jan 2014
By Zipster Zeus VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Has marriage for love failed? Has it ever succeeded in such an aim? Perhaps for many, no, and what we are experiencing is a small window of romanticism when we think true love will conquer all and marriage within it will be consistently wonderful...

Perhaps as a culture we do demand too much in the way of immediate, deep love being the most important component in [western]marriage, which is why we have such high divorce rates. The fact remains though that love is an important aspect of a human union, it perhaps just does not take the shape and intensity and immediacy that our present consumer-driven culture expects [and tells us it should be].

This is an intriguing little book- more of a long essay really- quite continental in it's worldview and observations. It's an interesting tract with some beautiful prose in it at times, worth reading for that alone really.
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