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Body Fascism

Body Fascism: Salvation in the Technology of Physical Fitness

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Body Fascism
    Book Description:

    Brian Pronger argues that a technological approach to fitness transforms more than the body's functions and contours; it diminishes its transcendent power, compelling it conform to a profoundly limited imagination of what the body can do.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7148-5
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-2)
  5. Introduction: Reading the Science and Technology of Physical Fitness
    (pp. 3-24)

    In the last three decades of the twentieth century the physically fit body became the ideal, if not always the reality, of modern Western societies. Images of the lean, sculpted body are now ubiquitous in the popular representations of magazines, billboards, film, television, and video. Popular books on physical fitness and diet have become a significant presence in most bookstores and one of the most successful sellers on the internet. Even small towns boasted fitness clubs and facilities in their community centres. And physical fitness products for the home now constitute a multi-billion-dollar industry in North America. But physical fitness...

  6. Part One: Theory

    • 1 Theory of Science: Practice, Power, Consensus
      (pp. 27-52)

      The naturalistic understanding of the technology of physical fitness sees it as a scientifically informed approach to developing the body’s capacities. Some technologies, in this view, are more scientifically sound than others. The ‘best’ are those that are most fully informed by ‘good science’ – science conducted independent of any political or economic interference. For instance, scientific research on training methods conducted by manufacturers of fitness equipment or by drug companies that could make money from the products whose effectiveness is being researched might be seen as tainted, unless it is conducted under the auspices of properly credentiallized scientists, working...

    • 2 Theory of the Body: Technology, Puissance, Pouvoir
      (pp. 53-118)

      In chapter 1, I suggested that scientific knowledge of the body is politically founded. But what of the body itself? What is the relationship between the body and society? Is the body a ‘natural’ entity engaged in social relations? Does it have a physical ontology apart from the social? Or is the body, its physicality, actually the product of sociocultural relations?¹

      My task in this chapter is to develop a theoretical framework that enables me to deconstruct (i.e., show the philosophy of the limit of) the politics of the body in the science and technology of physical fitness. The critical...

  7. Part Two: Texts and Procedures

    • 3 The Texts of the Technology of Physical Fitness
      (pp. 121-148)

      Naturalistic understandings of the technology of physical fitness accept it as a (mostly) scientifically informed way of optimizing the body’s potential for health, productivity, longevity, and happiness. The object of this book is to show that there is more to the technology of physical fitness than the naturalistic reading appreciates. In the Introduction I mentioned the scholarly literature that is critical of aspects of physical fitness for supporting contradictions in the welfare state and contributing to its disciplinary apparatus, for playing an ideological role for the reproduction of class and gender, and for its patriarchally founded positivism, which has contributed...

    • 4 Writing the Fascist Body: Description, Inscription, Prescription
      (pp. 149-224)

      The intertextual ensemble reviewed in the previous chaptercallsthe body. Exercise physiology, for instance, calls the body ‘functionally organic.’ Biomechanics calls the body ‘mechanical.’ Exercise psychology calls desire ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal.’ The popular cult of slimness calls the body ‘fat,’ ‘fit,’ ‘beautiful,’ or ‘sexy.’ Health promotion calls some bodies ‘at risk’ or ‘economically underproductive.’ Throughout the intertextual ensemble, the body is called things.

      As Heidegger points out, calling means naming. For example, the exercise sciences name the parts and functions of the cardiovascular system – that’s how it knows the body. When I called my puppy ‘Jascha,’ I gave...

  8. Postscript: The Other Side
    (pp. 225-238)

    The technology of physical fitness writes a relatively coherent script for the body, suggesting limited and productive directions for desire. I have argued above that it is a script not for freedom, but for subjection to the modernist quest for sovereignty, for salvation in a life described as essentially lacking. The intertextual ensemble writes codes for the resourcing of puissance by pouvoir. These texts are not alone in their reproduction of the trajectory of the modern human subject. They make sense and are applicable because they represent a particular manifestation of a larger project that is at work in many...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 239-248)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-268)
  11. Index
    (pp. 269-276)