This is a book about the tensions between Christian ideals of love and the concrete realities of everyday monastic life. Based on a study of Cistercian monasteries in France, it develops a novel conceptualization of fraternal relations and addresses how monks and nuns strive to accomplish such relationships within their communities. By focusing on the main interaction contexts of monasteries as a form of voluntary total institution, the book shows how attempts to generate collective solidarity, relate to other members as equals and avoid preferential relations conflict with practices of everyday life. Although fraternal ideals are similar for monks and nuns, the analysis reveals significant gender differences regarding the legitimacy of different forms of interaction and relationships as well as how to control them. The book appeals to readers with an interest in total institutions, sociology of religion, sociology of friendship, sociology of intimacy and also to scholars with an interest in theology of love and practical theology.

Chapter 1. Pursuing ideals of love in a voluntary total institution

Chapter 2. Studying social relations in a total institution

Chapter 3. Entering and staying in monastic life

Chapter 4. Ideals of love in fraternal life

Chapter 5. Collective solidarity and ritual stratification: The role of singing during the Liturgy of the Hours

Chapter 6. Stratified work in the context of equality ideals: Ascetic responsibilization and power failures

Chapter 7. Different conditions for friendship and conversation among monks and nuns

Chapter 8. Surveillance and sanctions through performative regulation

Chapter 9. Conclusion