How Does Love Matter in Culture?: Alienation Versus Authenticity

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:10
Oral Presentation
Hangyeol KIM, Sogang University, Republic of Korea
Seil OH, Sogang University, South Korea
Love, intimacy and dating are very important themes for youth especially in the era of neo-liberalism. Although people are atomized and alienated from each other, people still try to overcome their own alienation by making intimate relationships. Modern scholars have showed how people put hope in love to find safe zone in the face of existential anxieties stemming from uncertain life-circumstances or too much pressures in the competitive labor market places(Beck 1995). In other words, love is not just personal emotion but a structurally formed and reproduced one(Illouz 2011). Illouz has emphasized how authenticity and reflexivity work in romantic relationships in late capitalism where everything could be consumed-even emotion. Therefore, this research aims at empirical explanation on relations between authenticity, reflexivity and alienation based on a romantic relationship to find the way how people try to overcome their alienation in terms of emotion.

Our research team conducted mixed-methods, quantitative and qualitative: 368 surveys and 20 in-depth interviews with college students in Seoul, Korea. Statistical findings show that the internal capacities -authenticity and reflexivity- affect self-growth and satisfaction in dating relationship independently. Also, the narratives of interviewees show that youth generation date to overcome negative feelings such as loneliness, isolation, and alienation; however, the romanticized dating culture especially backed up by consuming market forces, cannot be a solution to overcoming alienation or to retrieving the authenticity of the agents. On the one hand, Confucian and patriarchal traditions emphasize the cultural propriety more than one’s free expression. On the other hand, modern consumer culture drives youths to be more attentive to erotic capital (Hakim 2010) and high cultural capital (Lamant 1992). Thus, culture matters among modern Korean youths’ love and dating. However, practices of authenticity and reflexivity may function to cope with alienated emotions in the Korean youth culture.