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The Politics of Selfhood: Bodies and Identities in Global Capitalism

Richard Harvey Brown Editor
Series: Public Worlds
Volume: 13
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Politics of Selfhood
    Book Description:

    Taking a cross-cultural approach, the authors consider how the body is constructed in various ways for different purposes, how the electronic media shapes selves and sensualities and contributes to civic discourse, and how global capitalism acts as a force in these processes. Contributors: Antonella Fabri, Eva Illouz, Philip W. Jenks, Lauren Langman, Timothy W. Luke, Timothy McGettigan, Margaret J. Tally.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9255-2
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Theorizing the Body/Self in Global Capitalism
    (pp. vii-xxii)
    Richard Harvey Brown

    Character and identity have been topics of concern since Homer, but such interest has accelerated and become more intense since the nineteenth century when Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, and others challenged the primacy of reason in man, nature, and history and instead advanced personal psychological experience as the ultimate arbiter of meaning. Social scientists have moved in the opposite direction, from a focus on individual and essential identities toward an emphasis on collective, socially constructed selves, even investigating cultural identities as a basis for political mobilization (Cerulo 1997; Calhoun 1987). For example, social movements usually involve a struggle for recognition by...

  4. 1 The Illness of Global Capitalism: Female Employees on “Sick Leave” and the Social Meaning of Pain
    (pp. 1-16)
    Margaret J. Tally

    The shift in modern society from an industrially based to a postindustrial economy has generated profound changes in the ways our lives are organized. The shift has entailed the increasing advent of technology in all spheres of our work lives (Rifkin 1995; Reich 1991) and the downsizing and restructuring of formerly large hierarchical businesses and organizations. In addition, there are larger trends toward the globalization of the economy, and the withdrawal of loyalty of workers from companies and even nations as they attempt to cope with uncertainties of employment. Further, the jobs that remain in advanced economies are different from...

  5. 2 The Problematics of Democratic Action within Disciplinary Liberalism: The Norplant Case and the Postmodern Body
    (pp. 17-41)
    Philip W. Jenks

    The debate over the medical safety of Norplant and its role in the American welfare state delineates an increasing tension in relationships between public and private bodies. In the United States, Norplant has been “prescribed” by judges and political representatives as a condition for parole or the receipt of welfare in a milieu that displays considerable ambivalence over women’s bodily autonomy. Indeed, more than a dozen attempts have been made to legalize a tie between Norplant and welfare. In many developing nations, where reproductive technologies are usually tested before they are released in Europe and the United States, Norplant marks...

  6. 3 Genocide or Assimilation: Discourses of Women’s Bodies, Health, and Nation in Guatemala
    (pp. 42-63)
    Antonella Fabri

    This essay explores relationships between health, women, and the nation-state that emerge from a national discourse that gravitates around the education and appropriation of the bodies of Mayan women.¹ My analysis draws on data that I collected between 1989 and 1991 in Guatemala City, when the Guatemalan state was still operating under a military regime that conducted a politics of genocide against Indian people in spite of the elected civilian government (1986–90). This is the background of my discussion of the role of health discourse in the formation of a “new” consciousness among women, and of efforts to create...

  7. 4 The Ludic Body: Ritual, Desire, and Cultural Identity in the American Super Bowl and the Carnival of Rio
    (pp. 64-86)
    Lauren Langman

    In his now famous analysis of the birth of tragedy, Nietzsche argued that behind the Apollonian cults of harmony and self-discipline were those of Dionysus that celebrated bodily indulgence in wine, song, dance, and frenzied passion. A short time later, perhaps without reading Nietzsche, Émile Durkheim illustrated the centrality of the body in religious ritual. Every year, he noted, otherwise dispersed clans of Australia came together to celebrate the sacred, that is, the power of the social. The body was imbricated within a complex system of rituals of song, dance, and relaxations of a number of dietary and sexual taboos....

  8. 5 From Body Politics to Body Shops: Power, Subjectivity, and the Body in and Era of Global Capitalism
    (pp. 87-108)
    Timothy W. Luke

    As the focus of power and locus of subjectivity in our world markets, the psyche and physique always are being built. No bodies issue forth on their own without the mediations of intentional action and disciplined interpretation in both the body politic and the body shop. Much of global capitalism’s politics and economics pivots upon these mediations, and no critical ontography of the present can ignore the history of practices behind the built being of the body.

    Bodies are built in the body politic and body shop, not only by design, but also by accident. As Foucault put it, “truth...

  9. 6 Reinventing the Liberal Self: Talk Shows as Moral Discourse
    (pp. 109-146)
    Eva Illouz

    In ways that reminisced one of the nineteenth-century campaigns against popular recreations (Malcomson 1973), talk shows have come to the spotlight of public debate and seem to have elicited cultural anxieties about their alleged thirst for sensationalism and shock value. This essay addresses a simple set of questions, obfuscated by the public outrage that is ritually poured over talk shows: What are talk showsabout?What makes them such a popular cultural form? What Segment of the contemporary imagination do they capture? Conversely, what makes talk shows the target for the elite outcry that they cheapen and threaten cultural values?...

  10. 7 Reflections in an Unblinking Eye: Negotiating the Representation of Identities in the Production of a Documentary
    (pp. 147-166)
    Timothy McGettigan

    For documentary filmmakers to collect footage they must “gaze” (Nichols 1991, 79–89) at their subjects through the apertures of visual recording devices. The “camera consciousness” that is stimulated by the gaze of visual recording devices can often encourage individuals to “mug” or to create “stylized performances” that have been invented largely for the benefit of the gazing cameras (Heider 1976, 50–55). However, scholars (Becker 1986, 255–58; Denzin 1989b, 217–18) have suggested that reactions to the visual researcher’s gaze can be offset and minimized, and that the gaze of motion-picture cameras, in fact, produces reactive effects that...

  11. 8 From Subject to Citizen to Consumer: Embodiment and the Mediation of Hegemony
    (pp. 167-188)
    Lauren Langman

    In the advanced horticultural societies of antiquity that produced agricultural surpluses, certain groups gained disproportionate control over power, property, and prestige. But how could small minorities, then and now, maintain and reproduce their class privileges when gross inequalities might foster envy, resentment, and even resistance and rebellion? As Max Weber (1946) noted, force is insufficient to maintain power. Ruling classes require popular acceptance of their claims to authority; they need to convince themselves and others that their power and wealth are deserved. Over several millennia, theodicies of good and evil, of fate, and of natural or divine inheritance have justified...

  12. 9 Narration and Postmodern Mediations of Western Selfhood
    (pp. 189-226)
    Richard Harvey Brown

    Modern Western philosophies, social sciences, and popular psychologies posit a radical distinction between individual and society in which wants, desires, and cognitive states are thought of as “internal” to the person. In René Descartes’s (1960 [1637]) writings, for example, the self is a castle of consciousness, a kind of mental Robinson Crusoe separated from all external society or sensation, like an anchorite in the desert. Descartes and other thinkers such as John Locke and David Hume were concerned primarily with self-certainty and mastery. Their focus on the individual was, in effect, a revolt against earlier forms of government based on...

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 227-228)
  14. Index
    (pp. 229-246)