FALLING IN LOVE by Francesco Alberoni


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. . . is the nascent state of a collective movement involving two individuals."" As such, Italian sociologist Alberoni persuades us, it can reveal processes occurring in other social movements, during periods of religious ferment or revolution, at any moment when people break from the existing social order to found a new one. ""When we are dealing with thousands or millions of people. . . it becomes very difficult to study the elementary mechanisms. But falling in love is something that we all do: we can all vouch for our own experiences; we can tell our story, can speak."" So Alberoni muses, redundantly but with enough new perceptions to sustain the collective movement comparison. Falling in love is, first of all, a transgression. ""No movement exists without a difference, and no experience of falling in love exists without the transgression of a difference."" From a long period of preparation, characterized by depression and persecution, one moves toward a threshold ""beyond which eros overflows the structures and floods prohibited territories; the violence that was self-directed for too long also overflows, uncontainable, overwhelming the rules that had kept it prisoner and destroying them."" Love unites what was divided and divides what was united: the lovers attempt to remake the past, viewing former ties with a certain detachment. But, while ""Love does not come into being to lose children. . . or to make anyone suffer,"" it involves a dilemma: ""the law cannot be violated without confronting the people who incarnate it."" And so those who would liberate sexuality without recognizing this dilemma, this personal violence, are engaging in ""a dreadful mystification."" ""It is like the person who eulogizes the revolution and then imagines it as a great celebration of friendship and love.' Hence the contrast between falling in love, an experience of grace heightened by the sense of risk, and love itself, the return to normalcy, the everyday governed by ""stupid necessity."" The lovers discover that, though they might have replaced spouses, jobs, and houses, ""they cannot will the world to become luminous and always reborn."" Alberoni relates our fascination with falling in love to a fascination with the nascent state itself. It is ""the dream of the West"" whether we speak of Christianity (the Nativity, Christmas, the Resurrection) or Marxism (""revolution, renewal, the end of history""). Thus, while we cannot make the nascent state ""our permanent residence,"" the experience of falling in love still holds us. ""It is the Garden of Eden. We are all familiar with it, we have all been there, we have all lost it, and we all know how to recognize it."" Maybe yes, maybe no--but this sociological meditation does make us want to read about it.

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 1983
Publisher: Random House