Much more than a feeling, love explains how we understand our world and each other.
Over the past generation or so, with astonishing rapidity, widespread social opposition to same-sex marriage has evaporated in many parts of the world. Reliable and effective birth control has become increasingly available to individuals around the globe. Millions of women, in the past century, have gained the ability to safely and legally terminate a pregnancy at will. New reproductive technologies, along with new kinship formations, make the propagation of life and the raising of children seem less and less the result of sexual reproduction.
At the same time, in many places, we are living through one of the most profound social transformations in human history: the erosion of a gender-based division of labor. The tidal waves of political and philosophical feminism, and the critiques to which entrenched institutions of sexual domination are subjected, are being felt throughout society. Behind this lies the expanded social authority of lovemaking and “love-based” commitments, in our laws governing everything from marriage and domestic economic life, to the adoption of children, to our schools and medical practices. Virtually no social, civic or political institution is being left untouched by these vast changes.
The sheer pace of social change often outstrips our explanations for it.
In the face of ongoing violence, naked prejudice, social crisis, regressive politics and institutionalized oppression around the world—much of which arises in response to the developments just mentioned—we may hesitate to trumpet this list of achievements too loudly. Nevertheless, the immense social transformations just mentioned are real and vast.