Eva Illouz

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Illouz, 2008

Eva Illouz (Hebrew: אווה אילוז‎‎) (born April 30, 1961 in Fes, Morocco) is a full professor of sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since October 2012 she has been President of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. She is Bezalel's first woman president.[1] Since 2015, Illouz has been a professor at Paris's School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (École des hautes études en sciences sociales).[2]


Illouz was born in Fes, Morocco, and moved to France at the age of ten.[3] She received a BA in sociology, communication and literature in Paris, an MA in literature at Paris X, an MA in communication from the Hebrew University, and received her PhD in communications and cultural studies at the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania in 1991, where her mentor was Professor Larry Gross, now the head of the Annenberg School of Communications at USC. She has served as a visiting professor at Northwestern University, Princeton University, the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris (École des hautes études en sciences sociales) and as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin).

In 2006, Illouz joined the Center for the Study of Rationality, then headed by Professor Edna Ullman-Margalit.[4] Her book Consuming the Romantic Utopia won Honorable Mention for the Best Book Award at the American Sociological Association, 2000 (emotions section).[5] Her book Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery won the Best Book Award, American Sociological Association, 2005 Culture Section.[6] She delivered the 2004 Adorno lectures at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt.[7] In 2009, she was chosen by the German newspaper Die Zeit as one of the 12 thinkers most likely to "change the thought of tomorrow."[8] In 2013 she received the Annaliese Meier International Award for Excellence in Research from the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, with a grant of 250,000 euros.[9] Her book Why Love Hurts won the best book award of the Alpine Philosophy Society in France. It is also the recipient of the 2014 Sociology of Emotions Outstanding Recent Contribution Award.

Illouz is the author of 80 articles and book chapters and eight books that have been translated into 15 languages.


The research developed by Illouz from her dissertation onward focuses on a number of themes at the junction of the study of emotions, culture and communication:

The ways in which capitalism has transformed emotional patterns[edit]

One dominant theme concerns the ways in which capitalism has transformed emotional patterns, in the realms of both consumption and production.

Consuming the Romantic Utopia[edit]

Illouz's first book addresses a dual process: the commodification of romance and the romanticization of commodities. Looking at a wide sample of movies and advertising images in women’s magazines of the 1930s, Illouz finds that advertising and cinematic culture presented commodities as the vector for emotional experiences and particularly the experience of romance. Commodities of many kinds – soaps, refrigerators, vacation packages, watches, diamonds, cereals, cosmetics, and many others – were presented as enabling the experience of love and romance. The second process was that of the commodification of romance, the process by which the 19th-century practice of calling on a woman, that is going to her home, was replaced by dating: going out and consuming the increasingly powerful industries of leisure. Romantic encounters moved from the home to the sphere of consumer leisure with the result that the search for romantic love was made into a vector for the consumption of leisure goods produced by expanding industries of leisure.

Cold Intimacies and Saving the Modern Soul[edit]

In Cold Intimacies and Saving the Modern Soul Illouz examines how emotions figure in the realm of economic production: in the American corporation, from the 1920s onward emotions became a conscious object of knowledge and construction and became closely connected to the language and techniques of economic efficiency. Psychologists were hired by American corporations to help increase productivity and better manage the workforce and bridged the emotional and the economic realms, intertwining emotions with the realm of economic action in the form of a radically new way of conceiving of the production process. So whether in the realm of production or that of consumption, emotions have been actively mobilized, solicited and shaped by economic forces, thus making modern people simultaneously emotional and economic actors.

The role of popular clinical psychology in shaping modern identity[edit]

Illouz argues that psychology is absolutely central to the constitution of modern identity and to modern emotional life: from the 1920s to the 1960s clinical psychologists became an extraordinarily dominant social group as they entered the army, the corporation, the school, the state, social services, the media, child rearing, sexuality, marriage, church pastoral care. In all of these realms, psychology established itself as the ultimate authority in matters of human distress by offering techniques to transform and overcome that distress. Psychologists of all persuasions have provided the main narrative of self-development for the 20th century. The psychological persuasion has transformed what was classified as a moral problem into a disease and may thus be understood as part and parcel of the broader phenomenon of the medicalization of social life. What is common to theme 1 and theme 2 is that both love and psychological health constitute utopias of happiness for the modern self, that both are mediated through consumption and that both constitute horizons to which the modern self aspires. In that sense, one overarching theme of her work can be called the utopia of happiness and its interaction with the utopia of consumption.[10][11]

The transformation of the architecture or ecology of choice[edit]

This is a theme Illouz has developed especially since becoming a member of the Center for the Study for Rationality at the Hebrew University in 2006. She argues that economists, psychologists and even sociologists tend to think of choice as a kind of fixed, invariant property of the mind, in which actors know what their preferences are and choose based on these preferences. Illouz argues that in modernity the whole ecology or architecture of choice - especially the choice of a mate - has changed profoundly. “Ecology of choice” has to do with the ways in which people understand what they take to be their preferences, the relationship between emotion and rationality, and the very capacity to distinguish between and prioritize between the so-called emotional and rational preferences.[12]

The unequal distribution of emotional development and emotional happiness[edit]

One dimension of Illouz’s work has been to understand the intersection of social class and emotion in two ways. First, how does class shape emotional practices? Are there emotional forms which we can associate with social domination? And second: If emotions are strategic responses to situations - that is, if they help us cope with situations and to shape them - do middle and upper-middle classes have an advantage over the poor and the destitute in the emotional realm? How do they establish this advantage and what is its nature?[13]

The meta-theoretical theme is that of human development and social critique[edit]

Illouz's fifth and final theme is meta-theoretical, that of human development and social critique. Whatever one’s allegiance, the critique of culture is premised on two cardinal propositions: that culture must transcend the realm of ordinary practices, and that it ought to do this by instilling in us habits and outlooks conducive to the “good society” (whether that is defined by greater equality and freedom, or by more religion and tradition). Illouz rejects analysis of culture as the counting of the ways in which it either emancipates or represses, delivers "trash" or "treasure", conforms to or does not conform to a model of human development or of the good polis. Instead, she tries to offer the notion of "immanent critique," which makes critique emerge from the self-understandings of actors. Cultural practices ought to be evaluated and criticized internally, according to the values they contain.[14]

Books published[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Some of her articles:


  1. ^ Professor Eva Illouz elected the new president of Bezalel, in Bezalel Academy of Art and Design site
  2. ^ http://www.cessp.cnrs.fr/spip.php?rubrique263
  3. ^ Koby Ben Simhon, Interview with Eva Illouz, Haaretz, June 20th 2009 (Hebrew)
  4. ^ Eva Illouz CV
  5. ^ List of Recipients, American Sociological Society site
  6. ^ Recipients of 2005 Section Awards, American Sociological Society site
  7. ^ Adorno lectures
  8. ^ Von Elisabeth von Thadden, Am Seelenmarkt: Was macht die moderne Ökonomie mit unseren Gefühlen?
  9. ^ Anneliese Maier Research Award 2013 - The Award Winners
  10. ^ 2007. Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism, Polity Press, London.
  11. ^ 2008, Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help, the University of California Press.
  12. ^ 2007. Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism, Polity Press, London.
  13. ^ See Saving the Modern Soul
  14. ^ Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery