People, 1. -  3. October 1998
Edith Saurer
Abstract: Work and Love. Commentary on the history of relationship

The relationship between work and love has several facets. From a historical point of view, the working society emerged at the same time as did the "love society", namely at the end of the 18th century. Of course, work has been regarded as a positive value since much longer, as the asset of a nation. However, work now became a central category that established the identity of an individual on the one hand, and determined the future on the other. The same applied to love. The relationship between heterosexual couples was stripped on the normative plane of pragmatism in terms of strategic family calculations and was exclusively based on love. This form of relationship initially concerned marriage ("love marriage") but also included a new language, independent of standard norms.

This common root of love and work as the two major categories that establish identity and constitute central systems of orientation, two categories that could increase their importance in a growing, secular society were, in the beginning, hardly discussed by contemporaries. One exception is Charles Fourier who makes this context the basis of his social system. He is described as the great philosopher of love but he was also the great philosopher of work. He regarded love and work as forms of energy that must be used correctly in order to increase the wealth of a society, the social resources and happiness of individuals.

Discussions in the research of women stress the sex-specific location of love and work, while discussions in sociology (Dux, Beck-Gernsheim) are concerned with the renaissance of love that goes along with the (presumed) loss of significance of work. Nevertheless, the historiography of work and love has devoted little attention to this development.


Edith Saurer (*1942 in Vienna) is a professor at the Institute of History, University of Vienna. She studied history, German literature and theatre sciences at the University of Vienna, then she went on a long research stay to Rome. She taught and did research at the University of Vienna, and has a professorship at the Institute of Modern History since 1992. Visiting professor in Bielefeld, Naples, Leipzig and the European University in Florence.

Associate editor of L'Homme. Magazine for feministic historical science, historical anthropology. Cultural society. Everyday life.

Numerous publications on social, cultural and women's history and the history of the sexes, e.g. "Street, smuggling, lottery games. Material culture and the State" (1989) and editor of "The religion of the sexes. Historical aspects of religious mentalities".

Institution: Institute for History, University of Vienna, A