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Against Love: A Polemic

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,307 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Who would dream of being against love? No one.

Love is, as everyone knows, a mysterious and all-controlling force, with vast power over our thoughts and life decisions.

But is there something a bit worrisome about all this uniformity of opinion? Is this the one subject about which no disagreement will be entertained, about which one truth alone is permissible? Consider that
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 14th 2004 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  1,307 ratings  ·  184 reviews

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May 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
My favorite part of this book is a 9-page laundry list of all one can't do while in a relationship. To give you a sense of it:

"You can't leave the house without saying where you're going. You can't not say what time you'll return. You can't stay out past midnight, or eleven, or ten, or dinnertime, or not come right home after work. You can't go out when the other person feels like staying home. You can't go to parties alone. You can't go out just to go out, because you can't not be considerate
Oct 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone wishing to challenge their perceptions of normativity
I recently read a few excerpts from this book for one of my graduate courses: it was definitely comforting to encounter a different slant on the marriage industrial complex. Ironically, a few days before reading Kipnis I found myself sandwiched in between three women (who were my peers in age) while they were avidly discussing marriage and all its supposed joys. Two of them were married and one was about to be in a few months. Anyway, I often find myself at odds with most people because I am not ...more
Julie Ehlers
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Against Love seems like it'd be the exact kind of book I'd, well, love. Anyone who's paid attention to my reviews knows I tend to enjoy a book that challenges the widely accepted norms of our culture, and if an author can say things I disagree with while still making me admire the way she says them, I enjoy it even more. But a book like this has to be smart, sharp, eloquent, and entertaining the whole way through, and the less a book delivers on these qualities, the less likely a reader is to be ...more
Sep 08, 2007 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure how to sum this one up. An interesting failure? Maddening yet compelling? I think I remember hearing it angered a lot of people because it challenged their beliefs - which I'm all in favor of. Unfortunately, what aggravated me about this book is that it doesn't do it well. It's filled with instances of faulty logic (if A sometimes leads to B, it's a bit hinky to imply that A always leads to B), leaps of reasoning that border on the ludicrous, and arguments that start with the conclu ...more
Caitlin Constantine
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Kipnis' book is a funny, smart bit of criticism about one of the major engines of modern American society - romantic love. She uses political philosophy, psychoanalytic theory and social criticism to look at the ways concepts of romantic love interact with political economy, how coupledom replicates the nation-state, sometimes with totalitarian results, how romantic love as we know it is really a modern construct, and the intersection of the Puritan work ethic with relationship self-help pop psy ...more
G (galen)
Nov 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Basic premise: Monogamy is incompatible with passionate love and historically passionate love rarely had anything to do with matrimony. Our culture's current rhetoric surrounding wedded bliss is unnatural and we see the results of the contradiction in the rate of divorces and infidelities in our marriages.

laura is writing a rant not a research paper but she's pulling her inspiration from philosopher/theorists, politics, religion, pop culture, the industrial revolution, current news headlines, su
Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
While I was reading this book on the N train, a man sat down next to me and said "I noticed the title of your book. It looks very interesting, but how can anyone be against love?"


He then wrote me a note with his name and workplace, and told me to stop by sometime to swap books with him, because he, uh, likes to read too.

I'm so amused that this book, of all books, inspired that particular interaction. Kipnis is quite a provocateur, and she's also very, very funny. I related strongly to many
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Gulag Archipelago has nothing on love, according to Laura Kipnis. With intelligent wit and hilariously dry humor, the author makes the provocative case that our most cherished emotion is nothing but the worst sort of self-imposed prison.

Readers will encounter shocking (and hard to refute) lines such as

In a commodity culture [love] conforms to the role of a cheap commodity, spit out at the end of the assembly line in cookie-cutter forms, marketed to the bored and alienated producer-consumer
Nov 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2003
Against Marriage ould be a much more accurate title for Laura Kipnis's book-length essay, Against Love: A Polemic. Kipnis says in a preface that her arguments are meant to be taken in a contrarian spirit, but I think that arguments made as the devil's advocate must still be coherent arguments--a criterion that not everything here seems to meet. Kipnis is quite willing to admit how fun love is, even if it makes you a little crazy. She's just not willing to buy into cultural pressure to commit to ...more
Alright, Laura. Here's the skinny. Your book caused a bit of an uproar when it came out, because your whole angle is anti-everything this country and its romantic populace stand for. You make a convincing argument that lifelong exclusive coupledom is for the birds (swans, specifically), and that we humans have a lousy track record at it. Thing is, the current divorce rate and latest news update on a Republican family values guy make the same point, in far fewer pages.

I guess this book would be a
Apr 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
Kipnis seems to misunderstand her own argument. Despite the book's title, it isn't a polemic against love, at all: it's a screed against hypocrisy. In exasperated prose, Kipnis lists the moral vexations that we moderns have brought upon ourselves by clinging imaginatively to Puritanical sexual mores while enacting rather more libertine ones in our everyday lives. Kipnis wants to argue that monogamy is a concept left over from a different time and that we should just admit that our social values ...more
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Reasons why this book is disappointing:
1. Kipnis’ arch, ironic tone begins to wear thin about halfway through the first chapter. It might work for an article, but it’s far too precious to be tolerable for an entire book.
2. Kipnis isn’t really against love—she’s just against marriage. She’s actually very much in favor of the disruptive force of adulterous love.
3. The book is essentially the same argument presented over and over (marriage is boring and its primary purposes have more to do with
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book says it all, everything I ever felt about the infamous institutions of love and marriage... most of which I could hardly articulate before this book because it is all such a hard sell in our society.

Pages 84-92 are worth the price of admission: "What can't you do because you're in a couple?" The polemic voice is the only one that could tackle such a complicated concept, and I doubt any one could do it better than Kipnis has.
Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: hopeless romantics considering a cure
Who hates love? Hide your nuclear family unit and your carefully guarded assumptions. This hilarious flirtation of a book deconstructs all those oooey-gooey feelings through the lenses of adultery and Marxism. If relationships are hard work, then this is the Situationist brick through the window -- ne travaillez jamais.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Smart and snarky. Kipnis pokes holes in our idealization of conventional coupling and the prevalent maxim that "relationships take work."
Feb 28, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sexuality, culture
I expected to like this book a little more than I actually did. I picked it up because it was mentioned in another book, and I thought I might agree with the author, as I assumed it was an indictment of traditional monogamy. Which it is, in a way, but not exactly. To be fair, I was warned. Kipnis says in the introduction that this is a polemic, and so the mild whinginess is probably to be expected. Nonetheless, I find the lack of solutions frustrating. She makes some accurate points about what's ...more
It would be so easy to simply disregard this book and the author. Clearly identifying with adulterers (only using "we" when discussing the cheaters POV) and therefore, in my opinion, personalizing the topic, Ms. Kipnis spends the entire book validating her claim that monogamy/love is simply unnatural. Now, don't get me wrong, while her book (and by "book" I mean "dissertation") does have a lot of valid points regarding monogamy and the rules and stipulations that come with it, she continuously b ...more
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Five stars is probably too much for this; in truth it's at three and a half stars. But for me, this book had an impact that can't be denied: I discovered this book whilst taking a Marxist politics course in my first year of uni. I was distinctly unimpressed by the Marxist politics, but this book managed to perfectly state my uneasy feelings about the complacency so many of my friends and colleagues had toward the idea of love and marriage as an unshakable moral code.

Kipnis frankly states that sh
Rachel Ann Brickner
I really appreciate the connections Kipnis makes between industrialization and capitalism and the ways in which we experience and form expectations of romantic love. This is most definitely a book I could read again; it is useful as a starting point to think about the origin and evolution of social norms in relation to the choices we make concerning romantic love. My only criticism is that the last section lagged a little, reiterating the same point about the hypocrisy of politicians who promote ...more
"We are about to enter the hidden linguistic universe of companionate couples, which as we will shortly see, rests entirely on one generative phrase: 'Would you please stop doing that.'"

Mmmmmm . . . as dark and bitter as a 70 percent cacao bar. I wouldn't want to consume a steady diet of this, but I enjoyed Kipnis's point of view. After all, if society insists so overwhelmingly that love is great and good and the whole point of living, then somebody needs to play devil's advocate. If you have ev
Are you married? Read this.

Are you coupled? Read this.

Are you an adulterer? Read this.

Do you reject the idea of marriage out of hand? Read this.

Are you single and think couples are happier? Read this.
May 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-loan
About a year ago I decided that perhaps I should educate myself about this ephemeral concept of romantic love. Not so difficult, as one of my favorite authors, bell hooks, writes extensively on the subject. But of course there was that one book that seemed so absurd I had to go for it. Against Love: A Polemic. Really, could Kipnis pull it off?? And if she managed to convince me of the idea that adulterers are in fact "freedom fighters" (as one review put it) what would that say about me? Well, f ...more
Kat Stromquist
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully incendiary. A great read.
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an interesting read! It’s definitely opened me up to a whole new bunch of questions on society’s role when it comes to love, and the antiquated model of monogamy and marriage!
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
At the end of Against Love, in order to prove the changing manner in which we look at monogamy and to debunk the TINA (There Is No Alternative)-like dogma of it, Laura Kipnis quotes William Godwin, who rather categorically states that "[it] is absurd to expect the inclinations and wishes of two human beings to coincide, through any long period of time. To oblige them to act and live together is to subject them to some inevitable portion of thwarting, bickering, and unhappiness."

Now, it is not th
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I only read one chapter of this book. It was a very spirited critique of “the confines of coupled life” T. C. sent it to me--a photocopy of the chapter, about 12 pages, front and back. I was happy to receive this, I had started reading it from the book when I was visiting T.C., but we did not get to finish it.

The essay is not too deep but entertaining enough. It is some one with a lot of education and a vagina admitting that being in a couple is sometimes (well, according to her, a permanent) dr

Aug 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: adults
This is a witty, surprisingly political book. It doesn't make balanced arguments but throws everything it has against love, sometimes individual points might contradict. The book isn't trying to be fair though, it's a long rant against the institution of monogamous domestic coupledom. It's best read by those who have been in monogamous domestic couples, particularly if there was cheating involved. It's funny, smart text that is a very fast read.

I shouldn't have read this book directly after rea
What a delightfully acerbic little book! The title is a smidge misleading, though, as Kipinis rails not against the emotion of love per se, but against the American institutions surrounding love and its proper pursuit and maintenance (and it is aimed squarely at a U.S. audience). Kipinis argues that labeling monogamous life-long pair-bonding as the “natural” relationship dynamic is more than a little odd, given that this “natural” state can only seem to be maintained by ceaseless effort (“Succes ...more
Oct 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the recently dumped, spinsters, confirmed bachelors, bad dates
i read this book right after i read all about love by bell hooks. i wonder if it would have been possible for me to read two more contrasting books. billed as a pelimic, this book takes a very uncompromising stand against love, as it exists in its current incarnation as the force that compels people to enter into traditional heterosexual monogamous marriage units. kipnis draws a lot of parallels between love & capitalism in order to illustrate the evils of both. it's kind of a little bit an argu ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
I was pretty disappointed by this book. I really went into it expecting a comprehensive critique of monogamy and the obsession with romantic love in American society. I really enjoyed parts of it, particularly the comparisons between marriage and labor, and the discussion of monogamy/marriage in relation to capitalism. But it was pretty wild to me that there was almost no mention of gendered dynamics, feminism, patriarchy, or heteronormativity and its relation to monogamy. Not to mention lack of ...more
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Laura Kipnis is the author of Against Love: A Polemic; How to Become A Scandal; The Female Thing; Bound and Gagged; and the upcoming Men: Notes from an Ongoing Observation (out in November). Her books have been translated into fifteen languages. She's written essays and criticism for Slate, Harper’s, Playboy, New York Times Magazine, New York Times Book Review, and Bookforum. A former filmmaker, s ...more

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25 likes · 5 comments
“So exiled have even basic questions of freedom become from the political vocabulary that they sound musty and ridiculous, and vulnerable to the ultimate badge of shame-'That's so 60's!'-the entire decade having been mocked so effectively that social protest seems outlandish and 'so last century,' just another style excess like love beads and Nehru jackets. No, rebellion won't pose a problem for this social order.” 14 likes
“[T]he hidden linguistic universe of companianate couples... rests entirely on one generative phrase: 'Would you please stop doing that.” 10 likes
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