The Autonomous Animal

The Autonomous Animal: Self-Governance and the Modern Subject

Claire E. Rasmussen
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt1vx
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  • Book Info
    The Autonomous Animal
    Book Description:

    Offering the first examination of the concept of autonomy from a postfoundationalist perspective, The Autonomous Animal analyzes how the ideal of self-governance has shaped everyday life. Claire E. Rasmussen demonstrates how the adolescent—a not-yet-autonomous subject—highlights how the ideal of self-governance generates practices intended to cultivate autonomy by forming the individual’s relationship to his or her body.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7847-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: CONCEIVING A HUMAN BEING
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    According to biographers, Immanuel Kant was fond of exclaiming, “Is it possible to conceive a human being with more perfect health than myself?” (Youngquist 1999, 347). Waking every morning at exactly 4:55, he ate only foods he considered conducive to thinking, carefully measured out an exact dosage of sleep, and, famously, claimed he did not sweat. The careful precision with which he constructed his texts on epistemology, morality, and politics was exceeded only by the care with which he tended his body. By all accounts, this guiding mind of the Enlightenment, the representative of reason, was also a bit of...

  5. 1 The Choice of Law AUTONOMY BETWEEN NORM AND CREATION
    (pp. 1-22)

    Rousseau’sConfessionsincludes a salacious passage describing a spanking at the hands of his caregiver, Mademoiselle de Lambercier, and his subsequent sexual arousal. He spends several pages describing his erotic response to the act of physical discipline and the profound impact it had on his relationships with women, his sexuality, and his sense of self. Ultimately he articulates how this sexual experience enables his sexual chastity by generating the fantasy of being able “to lie at the feet of an imperious mistress, to obey her commands, to be obliged to beg for her forgiveness, these were sweet pleasures, and the...

  6. 2 Mature Subjects: PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND THE POLITICAL CHILD
    (pp. 23-60)

    The following is an exchange between Whitney, a fifteen-year-old girl, and Dr. Phil McGraw (Dr. Phil), a self-described “Life Strategist” and well-known pop psychologist appearing on theOprah Winfrey show:

    WHITNEY: You don’t have to be depressed or have low self-esteem to want to do anything sexual. I think it’s more fun than people realize. I feel that it’s my choice what I do with my body and my friends.

    DR. PHIL: And you said something a minute ago. You said, “It’s my body, and I have the right to do with it what I want.” Let me tell you,...

  7. 3 Intoxicated Citizens: AMERICA’S DRUG WAR AND THE BODY POLITIC
    (pp. 61-96)

    Upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in 1986, Rosa Montoya de Hernandez was immediately detained by customs officials in a small room containing only a wastebasket. After fortyeight hours, during which Montoya de Hernandez refused to comply with customs officials who requested that she defecate in a waste-basket, she was taken to a hospital and given a pregnancy test, several X-rays, and, eventually, a laxative.¹ When the search was challenged, the Supreme Court found that the raid on Montoya de Hernandez’s body was constitutional, a necessary act on the dangerous battlefield of the “War on Drugs.” The protection...

  8. 4 Man Is a Political Animal: SELF-DISCIPLINE AND ITS BEASTLY OTHER
    (pp. 97-136)

    In 1386 an unnamed female defendant in France was charged with the mutilation and murder of a child. Following a public trial she was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. She was dressed in the clothing of a female menial laborer and then taken to the public square, where she was disemboweled and her limbs were torn off. The king’s executioner hanged her, and her carcass was left in the public square for viewing. The defendant had to be dressed prior to her public torture and execution because she was a sow.¹ In 1998, the Animal Legal Defense Fund...

  9. 5 Fit to Be Tied: EXERCISE FADS AND OUR ADDICTION TO AUTONOMY
    (pp. 137-166)

    The death of Len Bias in 1986 from cardiac arrest following his first encounter with cocaine became one of the most successful antidrug ads. Bias, a twenty-two-year-old All-American basketball star, had just been drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Boston Celtics and was set to become one of the highest played professional basketball players ever. Bias’s death made national headlines, not just on the sports pages, and became a national rallying cry for the war on drugs. One story that emerges from the sensational response to Bias’s death is about the drug war and panic...

  10. Conclusion: FREEDOM AND SELF-GOVERNANCE
    (pp. 167-170)

    Within modern political thought, autonomy has played an important role in resisting various forms of power. The idea that individuals possess a capacity to reason for themselves and thus govern themselves challenged multiple forms of hierarchy and domination. The project of modern democratization is heavily invested in a vision of the subject that defines autonomy as the characteristic that enables popular sovereignty. Thus the modern political project of liberation is built on the foundation of the sovereign subject of autonomy, able to will the law and thus preserve personal freedom and social order: “The freedom offered and defended by liberal...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-184)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 185-206)
  13. Index
    (pp. 207-211)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 212-212)