Roger Friedland

The Institutional Logics of Love?: Measuring the Intimate Life of American Students

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Does love follow an institutional logic? Institutional logics have been applied to the study of organizational behaviors where changes are effected in public through the actions of office-holders and there is abundant textual activity both in justification and codification, all of which leave their traces in public statement, law, regulation, budgets and official statement. Romantic love, in contrast, is an individual phenomenon effected in private through interpersonal relations that not only leave little textual trace, but whose enactment depends on registers of corporeality, affect and co-presence that do not even accede to language, let alone text. Is it even possible to investigate the intimate behaviors of college students to see if they are ordered by the institutional logic of romantic love? We think so.

In this paper we build on a theorization of institutional logics and a long tradition of measuring cultural logics from a relational perspective which we think provide figurations appropriate to that theory. We use the formal method of correspondence analysis (MCA) to examine a set of data recently collected from a sample of American university students in order to see how institutional logics operate in the lived experience of individuals who negotiate their intimate “love lives” within a complex social space in which different institutional logics are operative.