Yann Dall’Aglio on love.

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Love me, so that I can love myself: A Western identity crisis


I recently watched a thought provoking TED Talk by Yann Dall’Aglio, a French philosopher. His talk was about the current Western approach to love. There is no doubt that we all want to be loved, not only romantically, but also by family, friends and peers.

Yann makes compelling observations about the way this “desire to be loved” has impacted on modern Western society, and that it is not necessarily in a positive way; in fact he reveals a rather disturbing and disillusioning reality.

Yann Dall’Aglio’s theory

Yann examines Western consumerism, its cause and the effect it has on our approach to relationships.

He posits that we all need to feel valued and desirable within our relationships. He explains that love is the desire to be desired, and that we will go above and beyond to figure out how to become – and remain – desirable.

Yann further describes how current Western consumerist society is the result of this basic drive to make ourselves valuable and desirable. Unlike older societies where family and social structures have remained in place for hundreds of years, Western traditional family and social structures have disintegrated. Prior to the 13th century, family and social structures were governed by a clear set of social rules. Depending upon one’s age, sex and social status there were well defined expectations and principles of behaviour, thus, to the degree that you played your part in this structure, you were loved and valued.

The Renaissance contributed to new cultural movements resulting in a mass identity crisis, as modernity ushered in the era of scientific research, political democratisation and the industrial revolution. As a result, reason is now the ruling attitude, individual rights are paramount and trade has been liberalised. These three movements have annihilated traditional Western bearings, giving rise to a society of individuals who are free to value or disvalue any choice, attitude or object. The problem for Western citizens is that we, in turn, have each become subject to this same devaluation by others. We are no longer valued for our roles, our age or the positions we occupy within our social structures, and therefore experience the driving compulsion to renegotiate our value in society on a daily basis.

This obsession is a constant source of contemporary anxiety.

The solution for most individuals is to hysterically collect symbols of desirability. Yann coins this act of collecting as “seduction capital”, which he affirms is the drive behind our modern, Western, consumerist society. He claims that the idea of Western consumption being materialistically motivated is wholly untrue. It is Yann’s theory that our individual drive to improve our value capital is what promotes our excessive consumerism. He describes our motivation towards consumerism as being sentimental and unmaterialistic, by referring to a teenage boy who buys a brand new pair of jeans and then tears them at the knees just so that ‘Jennifer’ will notice him.

Yann postulates that there are two likely future outcomes of this view of contemporary love or “seduction capital”.

He foresees that this narcissistic capitalisation will intensify. Perhaps in the future your value will be defined by your height/weight ratio, your professional degree, your income or your popularity as indicated by the number of “likes” on your dating profile. Using the example of current day loyalty points Yann refers to “seduction capital points”.   He postulates a future in which a chemical treatment for breakups would lessen any residual feelings of attachment. Yann envisages a reality in which the state of permanent seduction value is preferable to being in an actual relationship, and he refers to an existing MTV programme in which “pickup artists” view falling in love as, a disease; an infection; a “squandering of seduction capital”. Heartache is referred to as “one-nitis”; an affliction during which you are infected by the “one”. He imagines a scenario in which we would be able to present our romantic genomic credentials as we would a business card, in order to establish seduction viability.

Inevitably such a relentless pursuit for seduction value has a shadow side; the huge disparity in seduction satisfaction is bound to leave many people with feelings of loneliness and frustration, calling in to question modernity itself, which is the origin of seduction capital, thus playing to the agendas of neo-fascist and/or religious communities who oppose and reject the modern capitalist approach.

Yann’s solution

What is the solution? How does one renounce this “hysterical” need to be valued? Yann proposes that we all need to accept that we are basically useless. This is demonstrated by our inability to perceive ourselves as having any intrinsic or inherent value, unless it is through the desire from another.

Ultimately, “I want to be perfect to gain the approval and love from another, and I want my partner to be perfect so that it justifies the value I attribute to them”.

In contrast Yann calls for tenderness – “love” as tenderness -, which allows us to accept the loved one’s weaknesses. He believes that there is much charm and happiness (joy) in a tender relationship that can be demonstrated by a greatly underrated form of humour comprised of deliberate frankness and light-hearted self-mockery.


2 Responses

  1. Agge nee toggie. Ek kan eintlik nie mooi verstaan hoekom Anja op Yann gereageer het nie. Die arme filosoof (om daardie begrip so vêr te probeer strek) ken nie eers die verskil tussen liefde en begeertes nie.

  2. Jy is heeltemal reg. Net die stelling: Love is the desire to be desired is al `n erge dwaling. Die res van sy betoog is werklik hoogs aanvegbaar en oppervlakkig. Hy sal ou Maslow en Wilber hartaanvalle gee … wel ten minste die een wat nog `n hart het wat aangeval kan word!!!!
    Lees maar Anja se antwoord (en my opmerkings). in die opvolg hier bo.

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