An odd and inseparable couple: Emotion and rationality in partner selection

Eva Illouz*, Shoshannah Finkelman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The dichotomy between emotion and rationality has been one of the most enduring of sociological theory. This article attempts to bypass this dichotomy by examining how emotion and rationality are conjoined in the practice of the choice of a mate. We posit the fundamental role of culture in determining the nature of this intertwinement. We explore the culturally embedded intertwining of emotion and rationality through the notion of modal configuration. Modal configuration includes five key features: reflexivity, techniques, modal emphasis, modal overlap, and modal sequencing. We apply this framework to the topic of partner selection. Comparing primary and secondary sources on pre-modern partner selection and on internet dating, we show that emotion and rationality were intertwined in both periods but that what differs between them is precisely the emotion-rationality modality.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)401-422
Number of pages22
JournalTheory and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments Our research for “An Odd and Inseparable Couple” was supported by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF). We would also like to thank Mabel Berezin and two other anonymous readers for their invaluable comments on earlier versions of this article.


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