Romantic love arose at the end of the 18th century and it has been recognized as an essential element in the structural process of the modern family. Considering that intimate relationships have the function of integration and social organization in modernity, sociologists have advanced and extended the inquiry field of the Sociology of Love in the last 40 years (Burkart 1998).
Despite the growing number of studies on romantic love, an adequate sociological definition of it does not exist. The present work suggests a broad definition of love in an attempt to conjoin the contribution of different scholars. Grounded on the assumptions of the cultural paradigm and the social construction of reality (Berger & Luckman 1966), the present study regard love as a system of meanings that is produced and transformed by humankind in its social historical trajectory. It comprehends symbols and images, metaphors, stories and folk theories, ideologies and prescriptions of conducts, of emotions and of practices. Love in this sense is a common knowledge that people resort to make sense of their experience.
Although scholars highlight different basis for the flourishing of the modern form of love, i.e. romantic love – the emergency of an emotional moral order (Luhmann 1986), separation between workplace and home and the sexual division of work (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim 1990), the invention of home and maternity and transformation in the child-parents relationship (Giddens 1992a), and the advent of a leisure culture (Illouz 1997) – they all refer to social changes that pushed the process of individualization further, i.e. the movement of individuals to focus on themselves, to cultivate a personal history, own interests, a self, and to develop a subjective perspective of the world.
Social transformations in modernity have been pushing the individualization process further and engendering changes in amorous interactions. At the same time that romantic ideals as ‘everlasting love’, ‘one and only sexual partner’ and ‘postponement of satisfaction’ lost their significance in society, new ideals as equality, autonomy, self-realization, negotiation (contractualism), and utilitarianism rise. Regarding the changes on romantic interactions, scholars speak about the impairment of romantic love and the emergency of a new form of love in late modernity (Del Priore 2005; Giddens 1992; Illouz 1997; Burkart 1998; Beck & Beck-Gernsheim 1990; Swidler 2001; Luhmann 1986).
Considering the importance of romantic love in the creation of social and intimate attachments and taking into account the singular cultural constructions of love, the present project proposes an empirical research to investigate how love is being signified and practiced in two different societies, Brazil (Rio de Janeiro) and Germany (Berlin), considering the role of cultural capital (Bourdieu 1986) in this process. The comparative study will enable the investigation on how sociohistorical particularities and the social structure influence the conception and the praxis of love, as well as which are the implications of the individual educational level in this process.