Our perspective defines Social Love as an action, relationship, or social interaction in which subjects overabound (in giving, in receiving, in not giving or doing, in not taking care) of all its antecedents, and therefore, it offers more than the situation demands with the intent to bring benefits. Hence, social love is defined starting from itself and for itself without interest, without a return, accountability or justification. Social love shows itself in its own process. Therefore, it is not a utilitarian action, or a market exchange, because no one offers or asks according to a calculated principle of marginal utilities for him/herself, nor is it founded on a principle of justice in giving or rendering according to a distribution criterion. It does not even appertain to the logic of solidarity which implies participation to a condition that does not belong to one, or of having the following or respect of others for our social status.
Social Love is not Eros. Eros is the inexhaustible tension to fill the privations of existence; and such tension is wrought even in the search of knowledge, in love and in wisdom. The Platonic Eros concerns the definition of a criterion of equivalence and of general accountability that is at the base of this type of social tie. Eros is the desire to have something one feels deprived of lies the foundation of its own manifestation. Eros, attracted in the first place by something beautiful and, hence, beautiful bodies, shows himself dependent on the beings he turns to, and therefore he can descend to a lower level: ‘to the urge of pleasure’. Eros has to do also with market economy. Money becomes the mediator that has real power and an infinite symbolic meaning. By reusing the categories of love, we can say that money is erotic, meaning that it allows the appeasing of needs and desires through continuous annexing of properties of things with which we recompose a unity, which in its premise flows from the solitude of significant relationships. By money, everything – people, sentiments, aesthetics, morals, space and time – take on a measurable value.
Social Love is not Philia. Philia is the second declination of the love bond, in which friendship manifests itself precisely in reciprocity of action. In Aristotele, friendship has a political meaning and is not relegated to private relationships among people. It precedes justice, therefore, because it is founded on the recognition of reciprocal merits, which are interactively communicated: for this reason, the co-presence of friends is important, who cannot remain distant in space and time. The typical element of love-philia is reciprocal benevolence, which presupposes a common measuring system, a principle of equivalence, which permits the reciprocity of exchanges, of appreciation and evaluation of merits, according to a shared rule of equality. Therefore, the Aristotelian conception of philia presupposes a principle of accountability which sustains the friendly interaction oscillating between the evaluation of merits and the reciprocity of behaviors, a circle tying one to the other; in philia there is intimacy but not the sweeping passion that fogs up or obscures reason and logos, such as in Eros.
Social Love is not Gift. When we talk about gift, we refer to the theoretical tradition that has been consolidated in social sciences beginning with the essay by Mauss (1965, Essay on Gift). The gift presupposes: 1) the obligation to give; 2) the obligation to receive; 3) the obligation to give back. The giving connects the giver, the gift, and the donee in a relationship of reciprocity, which, defined or undefined in time, expects restitution according to its logic. The Gift implies not only that the doner gives and the donee receives, but that the social obligation (norm) exists of maintaining the duties of each: “…the total transaction not only implies the obligation of giving back gifts received; but it also supposes two others equally important: the obligation of giving, on the one hand, and an obligation of receiving, on the other” (p.161). The presence of gratuitousness in this type of relationship doesn’t change the model of action.
Overaboundance is the typicality of Social Love, that is giving more than the situation demands or more than what one has received according to a given measure; social love occur when individuals refuse to keep count and show unconditional behavior, unexplained by a criterion of ‘do ut des’. Overabundance breaks shared expectations and overcomes any antecedent with the action.
Priority of others’ benefit, the overaboundance of love can be negative if it is not doing good to another person. For example, love can be suffocating. For this reason, it is important to have an objective criterion of love: doing good to others. Examples of priorities for the benefit of others are helping the people nearby to care for their well-being, especially if they are vulnerable or poor people.
Universalism, the concept refers to types of love that goes beyond in-groups (partner, family members, friends, etc.). For this reason, examples of Social Love are helping an unknown person or someone from another country or culture, even helping an ungrateful person. Indeed, nobody has the expectation that you will do something for these people.
Unconditionality, Social Love is characterized by absence of reciprocity. In general, in order for social love to be born, it does not even presuppose reciprocity, in as far as he who loves often finds himself breaking the cycle of having to give back: for example, it does not return a slap to the one who first gave it. In any case, in order to be activated, an agapic attitude does not start from the expectation that the other return the gesture.
Recognition of others, it requires considering the other person as irreducible and singular and looking at the person in his/her specificity, whatever it is. Examples of love of this kind can be welcoming the idea of the other even if divergent from mine, considering the diversity of the other person as an added value for me and society.
Reference: Iorio (2014), Sociology of Love. Vernon Press.