The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]

Are individuals born with an innate disposition to love or is love an acquired emotion? The emotion an individual feels for his or her mother is far different than what that individual feels for his or her spouse. That feeling we have for our spouses is referred to as “romantic love”. Hence, what is romantic love? In contemporary capitalist societies, “romantic love” plays a pivotal role. It is believed that, this emotion eases the anguish of many personal and social ills. The saying “love conquers all,” for example, makes people feel better about themselves and many wrongs around them. From a Marxist understanding, like all ruling class ideology, “love is an instrument of capitalist domination, and gives people hopes and dreams of improving their personal lives,” which does not simply cushion the effects of their oppression but justify the status quo. An essential attribute of the conflict perspective is that human beings are selfish and uncooperative. Therefore, “love” cannot exist since ‘love’ is supposedly unselfish and cooperative.

This wretched emotion is not real! Love is a distortion of reality that forms part of our false consciousness, created by the ruling class which helps to maintain their dominance. In fact, it is an illusion which eases the anguish produced by exploitation and oppression. “Love” comes from a material base- it relates to the physical and economic aspects of social life. Hence, people groom their hair, wear fake nails and lashes, and torture their bodies with uncomfortable but sexually appealing outfits in an effort to attract the opposite sex and gain love. Capitalism has made “romantic love” into a commodity; a product to buy and sell, want and own. What is a marriage worth? Everything? What is the financial cost? Huge! “IT IS A THING TO HAVE BECAUSE YOU ARE WORTH IT”. People fantasize about getting married and living happily ever after. The diamond engagement ring signifies the worth of one’s labour and not the joining of two souls in holy matrimony.

The more people invest in ‘love’, the more they lose themselves. Purchasing an expensive gift for a partner makes the individual feels completely different about you unlike buying a cheap gift. But what happens when you no longer can afford an expensive gift? “FEELINGS CHANGE”. Those who claim they are in “love” or “love” exists want to support their lovers in every way and so purchase material objects to show that emotion (whether it’s a ring, house, car or even groceries). Hoping to find love, happiness and freedom, people are forced to sell their labour to the capitalists in order to make money and purchase these materials. The money goes straight back to the capitalists and the exploitation and oppression continue.

In conclusion, romantic love is a myth. In contemporary capitalism, it is a deception which constitutes the ruling-class ideology, people’s false class consciousness and helps to maintain the system. Human beings inherent nature of being selfish and uncooperative does not permit room for this pathetic emotion. “Romantic love” disguises from all members of society the basis of exploitation and oppression upon which the capitalist dominance rests. The majority is forced to sell their labour in an effort to find love, happiness and freedom.

Vanrick D. Williams
[email protected]

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

10 replies on “Marxist on romantic love”

  1. Pat Robinson Commissiong says:

    Dear Mr Williams
    Am I right in assuming that you consider yourself a Marxist? From some of your writings I wonder how much of Karl Marx’s writings you have actually read as distinct form various commentaries on Marx. Or Marx’s co-writer, Frederich Engels? Or Hegel from whom Marx got the idea of dialectical progression? If you would like to actually read “Capital: A Critical analysis of Capitalist Production” let me know. But I warn you it’s three volumes of over 700 pages each.
    I don’t think you’ve read much history either. Whatever makes you think that “romantic love” is contemporary with capitalism? The notion of romantic love derives from Mediaeval courtly practices – it’s what troubadours sang about. All those fairy tales about Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, etc and their Princes who kissed them and they lived happily ever after come from old European folk tales that were collected and written down by people like the Grimm brothers, and they predate the rise of capitalism. The story of Romeo and Juliet predates Shakespeare, whose re-telling of it is perhaps the most famous version. And A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with people falling in love right left and center is hardly a capitalist tale – Shakespeare lived and wrote in the late sixteenth and early seventh centuries – before the rise of capitalism. Then we can go even further back to Helen of Troy – “the face that launched a thousand ships” (who wasn’t from Troy in the first place). Her story was told by Homer among others; and whether she was abducted of went willingly or was given to Paris by her parents, or whether Aphrodite (Goddess of Love) gave her to Paris is all debatable (and please do NOT pronounce that name, as I hear so many people doing, Afro-dite; it’s Greek not English so it’s Af-ruh-DI-tee ); but none of the stories suggest that Paris was not fatally attracted to Helen. So were the ancient Greeks capitalists?
    And as for “buying” the object of your love (or whatever else you choose to call the attraction between two people) that also is as old as the hills. In fact, in some cultures the male settled a “dowery” on his bride (including European culture within historical memory – so they needn’t be all “holier that thou” about people who still have the custom of a “bride price”) That settlement ensured that in the event of his death before her, she would have sufficient to live on – given that in most such cases the estate devolved on the oldest male son, of failing a son then the nearest male relative of the husband. The “Dower House” attached to many landed estates in England, for example, would have been built for the widow of the owner of the estate.
    Women trying to attract the highest bidder also predates capitalism. And it arises from the custom of vesting all property in the man, and passing property on his death to his male relations – a custom that still persists not just in capitalist countries but also in other non-capitalist societies (I was recently reading about some South African women who were going to the “colonialist/capitalist” courts to try to establish their rights to the land bought by their deceased husbands and worked by the women and their husbands, which now, according to the customary law of their kinship groups, should now belong to their husbands’ brothers.) Married women, even in England as late as the nineteenth century, could not own or control property – the Married Women’s Property Act was passed in 1882. Before that any property she inherited became her husband’s property. And if a father left his daughter property, she would probably be hedged around with trustees possibly until well into her thirties, if she ever got full control. And until recently, women were expected to remain at home – it was capitalism that really got them out of the home – into truly appalling conditions in factories and mines in the first instance – try reading some 19th century social history. And all those women you see today who are lawyers and doctors and teachers with degrees are a relatively recent innovation. In the late 19th century women were allowed to attend University lectures and could even take the exams but they could not receive degrees until 1920. Women were also denied entry to law schools and (in the USA) they were denied admission to state bar associations. With no means of earning a living – and even condemned for trying, is it any wonder that for women the main avenue of advancement was a rich husband? Such attitudes predate capitalism. If anything, with the growth and expansion of capitalism, they are slowly dying, in that an increasing number of women can now support themselves – but it’s a long way to go before there’s any likelihood that they will be extinguished.For heavens’ sake – when I started my first job – with a postgraduate degree – I was told, by a man, the head of the organization, that I could not be paid as much as a male colleague because why? – he had “more responsibilities” than I had. And what were these “responsibilities”? – supporting a woman like me, and any children I might bear – that was a man, not a woman, assuming that I, and all women, require a man’s financial support. And if you think that came about as a result of capitalism , then all I can say is that you need to study some history, as well as some current social and cultural practices in non-European and non-capitalist countries

    1. Vanrick D. Willams says:

      First and foremost I consider myself to be a philosopher and I am deeply influenced by Karl Marx- ‘Das Kapital’ which explored the impact of the industrialization on Britain. Marx’s focus was on the inevitable forces of history driving changes in the modern world and how those changes affect human relationships and social institutions. I am also fascinated by various commentaries on Marx writings. There are those who believe in many of Marx’s concepts but differ in other aspects and refer to themselves as Neo- Marxists. Every great thinker was influenced in one way or another then branched off into his distinct field, theory, perspective or reasoning. The founding father of the conflict perspective, Karl Marx was influenced by Hegel (pronounced as Hay-gull; it’s German); Lenin was influenced by Marx; I am no different. Maybe, in the future my name will be entertained alongside great political and social philosophers such as Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Kant, Hegel, Mill, Tocqueville, Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and Arendt…. However, I have my own perspective; my own philosophy of social phenomena, including love and women. Hence, my writings are essentially my views which are influenced by economic forces. Credit must be given where credit is due. Concomitantly, I give Marx his credit in my writings.

      History and Sociology fuel my reasoning but I speak of contemporary societies because this is the era in which I live. Marx and Weber, among others, tried to explain social change pertaining to their epoch and I am here doing the same for my generation. Reading much history has equipped me with the necessary prerequisites to analyze contemporary societies. Fairy tales are what they are and not some other things. Being subservient to European rules for hundreds of years has inculcated Caribbean people. We have been taught that courtship, dating, engagement then marriage is the ideal way to living happily ever after. On the contrary, love never existed. If Eve loved Adam so much, why did she lead him astray? If Delilah cared so much for Sampson, why did she betray him? If a male gives a female his all and plays his role, why leave? Why would a man who claims to love a female so much kill her? The answer is evident- love is an illusion; a crime of passion. This is no Midsummer Night’s Dream! This is no Romeo and Juliet!

      I sense that you’re admitting that love has been bought long before capitalism and I concur. I am aware that women were not given equal rights as men for centuries. Perhaps this is one reason why women have employed various strategies to control events and men (Sex being chief of these strategies). However, gender inequality is not the topic of my discussion in this piece. This forum is concerned with explaining the social phenomenon called romantic love. I also hold the view that the Devil is a woman and should not be illustrated as a ‘monster-like’ looking man with horns, but with a pretty face, long hair with breasts. What if the devil is really a woman and she was thrown out of heaven because she tried to rule the man (God)? She was banished from heaven and doomed to eternal damnation. Then that would explain why women’s place in the home, society and workplace has always been subordinate.

      You may see this as absurd or even insane, but again, great thinkers have always been chastised and seen as being crazy. In research, there are several ways that people come to know. Some of the ways in which people come to know include intuition, common sense, experience, authority, reasoning, and by means of systematic investigation of phenomena. Studying current social and cultural practices in non-European and non-capitalist countries would add to the repertoire of knowledge I have gained about romantic love. It is a myth, a fairy tale, a distortion of reality, a pathetic emotion that derives from a material base; love in any absolute sense is plainly an unrealistic and unnecessary precondition for civil society.

      1. Pat Robinson Commissiong says:

        Dear me! You are very confused. YOU are a philosopher influenced by Marx and you can state “I also hold the view that the Devil is a woman and should not be illustrated as a ‘monster-like’ looking man with horns, but with a pretty face, long hair with breasts. What if the devil is really a woman and she was thrown out of heaven because she tried to rule the man (God)? She was banished from heaven and doomed to eternal damnation. Then that would explain why women’s place in the home, society and workplace has always been subordinate.” As a Marxist you should know that all religion and religious explanations are examples of “false consciousness”. Marx was also influenced by another German philosopher, Ludwig Feuerbach, who held that all our beliefs about God are a projection of human wishes and desires. “God” and presumably “the Devil” do not exist. They are projections of human consciousness,
        In Marxist terms you are explaining a phenomenon in terms of your own false consciousness. A Marxist does not believe in the Devil. The “Devil” is a projection to explain what we do or what we desire.

        You also state “This forum is concerned with explaining the social phenomenon called romantic love.” But “the social phenomenon called romantic love” is inextricably bound up in gender inequality. You cannot explain this phenomenon only as it relates to capitalism since, as I pointed out, it predates capitalism. It is part of a complex of beliefs – for example, the notion that a man can “own” a woman, that the woman is (is by nature) dependent on the man for support. And as I pointed out, it is the historic forced dependency (she cannot own property, she should not work outside the home, she should be concerned, in the German formulation, with kinder, kuche, kirche – children, kitchen, church) that gave rise to way women use their sexuality as a means of advancement, not capitalism per se.

      2. Vanrick D. Willams says:

        Confused? Not at all! It’s versatility and my own brand of reasoning. Influenced? Yes, but not confined. Religion is the opium of the people (Karl Marx); the devil may be a woman (Vanrick Williams). My point is- My views are not Marx’s views, and should not be seen as such, but may be rooted in the seed of Marxism (economic determinism).

      3. Pat Robinson Commissiong says:

        Well then, don’t call yourself a Marxist. You call romantic love a false consciousness (taking the concept from Hegel/Feuerbach/Marx) that is engendered, according to you, by capitalism, which encourages people to spend money which they must then earn by working for the capitalists; but you reject the concept in the major case in which it is used by Marx i.e. religion because it doesn’t suit your notions about the nature of evil. You seem unable to realize that the whole story of the fall of Lucifer/the Devil from heaven is a myth not a historical event (“myth” not in the sense in which we often use the term as a falsehood, but in the sense of a story that offers an explanation of some phenomenon, in this case evil in the world – like the Greek myth of Pandora’s box). You may believe it if you want, but it is just that, a belief, not susceptible of proof. And ALL such myths, for a Marxist, are “false consciousness”, because the only true basis for social and cultural phenomena is the relationship of people to the means of production – something you seem willing to accept as far as the relationship of “romantic love” to capitalism is concerned, but not in relation to “evil”. Why?

        Romantic love is an idea that existed before capitalism, and presumably the forms it took were related, if you are a Marxist, to the other forms of economic production that existed before capitalism. As I pointed out to you, a woman looking for a rich husband is nothing new, and it exists in peasant societies, feudal societies, capitalist societies; “rich” is a relative term. And I further suggested to you that given it’s widespread existence, it is far more likely to be related to the fact that, with the exception of remarkably strong and determined women (who were all too likely to be labeled “unnatural” women), women could not improve their financial and/or social standing in society, nor the standing of their offspring, except through the males who were the fathers of those offspring. They certainly could not make that improvement on their own since they were barred from most economically gainful means of employment. (You’re not going to suggest that social stratification exists only in capitalist societies, are you?)

        On a tangent, but still a related topic, have you ever come across the term “filius nullius”, that was once used in the legal profession. (Some societies are more “enlightened” today in that they no longer legally discriminate in the same way). That means “nobody’s child” and it meant a bastard – a child whose parents were not married – marriage being the historic means of identifying the father of a child, the legal husband being presumed to be the father of a married woman’s child. (Needless to say, biologically speaking, that was not always true). Although the “illegitimate” child’s mother is always known, and very often so is the father, the child was still “nobody’s child” as far as the law was concerned, the “bodies” who owned children being the fathers. The unmarried mother didn’t count, except in so far as to stigmatize the child, and the biological father of that child was not the “father” in law. And you need Capitalism as an explanation for women looking for “suitable” men to marry, but dressing up the relationship in terms of a noble emotion?

        But men also married for economic reasons, pecuniary advantage or diplomatic reasons, something you seem to overlook. They married to save and/or increase property, to create a useful alliance with an influential family, or, less often, to take them up the social ladder – Victoria and Albert spring to mind. So heiresses were always in great demand, whatever their physical charms or lack thereof. The difference is that there were fewer heiresses that there were heirs – property being passed on in the female line only in the absence of a male heir. But many men nevertheless expected their bride to bring something to the marriage – some money, hence the “dowry”, or a useful alliance with another family, to enhance whatever property/skills the man possessed (Just read a bit about Henry VIII of England and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, who was first married to Henry’s elder brother, and when that brother died, married to Henry. That was a classic marriage for diplomatic/dynastic reasons – she was the daughter of the rulers of Aragon and Castille, a useful alliance for sixteenth century England. And that marriage was the cause, when there were no surviving male heirs, of the Annulment drama that led to England’s break with the Church of Rome and the establishment of the Church of England a.k.a. the Anglican Church. Henry, I might add, argued that there were no surviving male heirs because the marriage was not valid in the eyes of God, so the annulment was essential in order for him to legally marry a suitable (God approved, presumably) woman and beget male heirs – that Anne Boelyn was by then pregnant and just might produce a son, had nothing to do with it, of course. Thus do we attribute to God (or Nature) whatever we want or approve and call “un-Godly” or “un-Natural” those things of which we disapprove – a classic Marxist “false consciousness”)

        And if you think that conspicuous consumption whether it is in the form of an expensive engagement ring or lavish wedding reception, or in the form of a house larger that your needs, a flashy car, expensive clothes and jewels are all also the result of capitalism, I can only suggest that you take an on-line journey through Europe, India, China, the ruins of Zimbabwe, the Incas, the Aztecs, medieval Arabic/Muslim lands, and look at the all the magnificent buildings erected, and jewels amassed by peoples of varied economic persuasions, long before capitalism raised its nasty head.

  2. Not every woman is a marxist lover. A pursued relationship is not always for economic gains. I think the interpretation of love has been skewed that it is now an illusion. A feeling that is constantly confused because persons think it’s: what you do, how much investment is made, the level of emotional support, the extent of physical attraction, and the extent of sexual pleasure. At the end of the day…LOVE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT. Maybe two persons who love money and join forces can really be happy together..who knows. (I can think of so many things that can go wrong with such relationship)
    The truest love is one with sincerity, honesty, physical attraction and is not based on economic gain, the sex..great (BTW, I find when you love someone the sex is onpoint). All relationships are like jigsaw puzzles that need work,kindness and consideration to fit just right.

  3. What! A philosopher, a Marxist…and “Maybe, in the future my name will be entertained alongside great political and social philosophers”…no way, not at all. Marx must be turning over in his grave after reading such garbage. How can one seriously equate this mindset, with that of a Marxist, so to speak? Sounds more to me like a spurned lover who’s fast become a woman hater. After reading these articles by V .D. Williams, I too must confess like Marx… ‘All I know is that I am not a Marxist’.”

  4. Vanrick D. Willams says:

    Let me reiterate…. My views are not Marx’s views, they are essentially mine. However, I am fascinated by Marx and various commentaries on Marxism. Economic determinism is the greatest contribution Marx has made towards my reasoning. Apart from the forces of production and the ownership of the means of production being the driving forces behind social change, I’ve branched off into my own perspective. It seems that my critics take issue with the fact that I have used some of Marx’s concepts and neglect others in my explanation of the social phenomenon called ‘romantic love’. Will my critics chastise me less in the future if I call my perspective “Williamsturgy”?

    Ms. Commissiong, you have done well and I look forward to your comments whenever I write because I know you are just trying to defend your sex and making excuses for their inability to be loyal. PKnight, you haven’t really read my articles. If you had, you would have known that I’m not a woman hater (read my article- A Woman’s Worth). I DO NOT share Lenin’s view that all wives are glorified prostitutes, he’s Marxist. Don’t be discombobulated! My ego is at a sky high and is not to be mistaken with equating myself to Marx. Have you ever heard about the Plantation Society Model? I want to assume you would have. It is authentically Marxist in orientation. Professor George Beckford saw the plantation system as a total economic institution, where the internal and external dimensions dominated the country’s economic, social and political structure and their relation to the rest of the world. Would you also call this garbage? Would you deny that Professor Beckford is a philosopher? His name is surely entertained among social and political philosophers in the Caribbean.

    “The world is what it is. Men, who are nothing; who aspire to be nothing will always be nothing.” Is aspiring to be a great philosopher wrong? I appreciate all the comments and admonish you to keep reading my articles and iwn.com. Thanks everyone…

    1. Pat Robinson Commissiong says:

      My dear man – I am not “defending my sex” as you phrase it. I am trying (a) to get you to understand what Marx and other German philosophers were saying – which you clearly do NOT understand – so you should really not call yourself a Marxist philosopher; and (b) to give you some introduction to the history/sociology of gender relations, which, it seems you have never studied. You are neither a Marxist nor a philosopher. To even speak of the “inability” of women to be loyal betrays you.

      Some women are disloyal and some are loyal. Some men are disloyal and some are loyal. People are different. Most have some good characteristics and some bad. Few of us are saints, and even the people we now call saints often had unpleasant characteristics. Grow up – that’s the way of life. You will never find 100% of either women or men who will display any characteristic of which you approve. The task of an adult is to learn discernment – to understand what YOU want in someone, whether a friend or a lover, and not to be misled by superficial factors like a pretty/handsome face, flattering speech or money. And if you are so misled, then don’t blame the other person, and don’t come up with persiflage like Satan was a woman cast down from heaven for threatening God – that’s not philosophy. If you want to believe that, then believe it, but don’t call unsubstantiated belief “philosophy”.

      If you make mistakes in trusting people who prove to be untrustworthy that is your mistake, not the fault of the other person. Learn from your mistakes and be more discerning the next time – or you will continue making the same mistakes over and over again. PEOPLE have faults; men and women, we all do. It is for you to know yourself and to know which faults you can tolerate and which you cannot and live your life accordingly. According to your logic I should say, “All men are…” and list the things I think men do (and call that philosophy? No, it’s called “prejudice”). Yes, I can find some men who do anything I could list; and I can find some who do not do those things. So should I blame all men because I chose to have a relationship with a man who does something of which I disapprove. No. It’s my mistake, if I did so, not his and certainly not the fault of ALL men. And I certainly would not drag in poor Marx to try to justify my dislike of whatever the problem is.

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