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Loneliness and love in late modernity: Sites of tension and resistance

posted on 2023-05-24, 06:20 authored by Nicholas HookwayNicholas Hookway, Barbosa Neve, B, Adrian FranklinAdrian Franklin, Patulny, R

Loneliness is one of the most important emotions to be impacted by the rise of late modernity. As noted in Chapter 1 (Patulny & Olson), late modernity is transforming the way people relate to each other, not only in terms of separating them from each other, but in creating novel spaces to form new connections. Anthony Giddens (1991; 1992) describes the transformation of intimacy, and Zygmunt Bauman (2005) the liquefaction of traditional ties and social bonds. However, inasmuch as these changes might render us lonelier than ever, they also offer the opportunity for acts of resistance, and to form new social connections that may reduce loneliness. To understand this, we must recognise the difference between social and emotional loneliness (Weiss 1982), which has been conceptualised as the difference between actual contact with others versus a perceived lack of sufficient contact with others. Loneliness is more likely to be ameliorated from the making and maintaining of good quality connections with others than from merely building more social connections (Franklin 2012). It is in observing this qualitative difference between contact and connection, and between the social and emotional conceptions of loneliness, that the complexity of late modern loneliness starts to become apparent. Patulny and Olson (Chapter 1) argue that late modernity is characterised by emotional complexity, whereby we have new understandings of older emotions, and we have the advent of new complex emotions and emotional dynamics. This complexity is revealed in the recognition that the experience and emotional management of loneliness are shaped by social-structural conditions such as gender and age (Franklin & Tranter 2011; Patulny & Wong 2012; Flood 2005; Stanley et al. 2010), but are also improved by increasing reflexive analysis and new forms of agency. Emotional reflexivity is a key element of late modernity, both for individuals seeking to understand and manage their emotions (Holmes 2010; Burkitt 2012) and within the greater macro-reflexive discourse of society about emotions as a whole (Patulny & Olson, this volume, Chapter 1).

Loneliness, in both these senses, is beginning to lose its stigma. We now recognise it as a social condition in need of de-stigmatisation, and in need of new and innovative treatment methods. In this chapter, we consider three key sites that highlight the complexity of loneliness in late modernity. More specifically, we address how loneliness is being reshaped by wider social changes in love and intimacy, within digital media and within human-animal relations. We show how these sites are spaces of tension, both enabling the conditions of loneliness, but also offering new means of connection and agency for dealing with loneliness. Cutting through the discussion is a wider recognition of the complexity of late modern loneliness, as it is reshaped by wider processes of individualisation, consumerism, mediatisation and increasing reflexivity (Patulny & Olson, this volume, Chapter 1).


Publication title

Emotions in Late Modernity


R Patulny, A Bellocchi, RE Olson, S Khorana, J McKenzie, M Pete






School of Social Sciences



Place of publication

New York



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Copyright 2019 The Authors

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Expanding knowledge in human society

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