Body as a form of capital
Baudrillard writes that ‘Beauty is such an absolute imperative because it’s a form of capital’ (1998: 132). Analyze the role of the body as a form of capital (addressing the specific practices and implications) with reference to one particular form of body work (e.g. an occupation, a consumer practice e.t.c).
This essay would focus on the body form of a bodybuilder as a form of capital. Bodybuilding being a form of capital is said to add value to an individual’s body. This value could be economic, social, cultural and symbolic (Bourdieu 1986). “Physical capital is most usually converted into economic capital (money, goods, services), cultural [for example] education and social capital (social networks which enable reciprocal calls to be made on the goods and services of its members)” (Bourdieu 1978, 1984, 1986) in Shilling 2003, p. 111.
Our conception of beauty is shaped by the media. “Bourdieu’s analysis of the body involves an examination of the multiple ways in which the body has become commodified in modern societies” in Shilling 2003, p. 111. This is why Bourdieu’s theory of social reproduction would be used intensively to explain why Baudrillard wrote that “beauty is such an absolute imperative because it’s a form of capital” (1998: 132). This would be done in relation to Bourdieu’s physical capital to the body. It was stated by Bourdieu that ‘This refers not only to the body’s implication in the buying and selling of labour power but to the methods by which the body has become a more comprehensive form of body capital; a possessor of power, status, distinctive symbolic forms. (In Shilling 2003, p. 111). So in relation to bodybuilder the practices of the bodybuilder would be taken into account, e.g drug taking to enhance the muscles and the implications of such behavior.
Beauty is an absolute essential in our society; it allows for individuals to feel really confident with themselves and hopefully in their endeavors to be able achieve success, as in our current environment greater emphasis is placed on peoples physical appearances. This could make a huge difference between failure and success. This aspect can be linked to Marchand’s parable of the first impression, which states ‘first impressions brought about immediate success or failureaˆ¦ the reason one man gained a promotion or one woman suffered a social snub had become less explicable grounds of long-standing favoritism or family feuds’ (1985, p. 217). This could be related to bodybuilding as if one is not muscular enough; they might not enter for a show or competition. This idea of presenting one’s self in an acceptable manner in a bodybuilding sector of society would have made individuals feel good and helped increase their self esteem amongst their peers thus ensuring happiness; this could hence be linked to the social capital as they would gain increased connections. The implication and practices of being a bodybuilder would most probably be the idea that they are trying to make themselves feel confident in the body they are in. The ideal of feeling confident could be said to be on a personal level, on an economic level for these bodybuilders, they would be able earn money, earn a living for what they do. And on a social capital level, they would be able to earn a status amongst their peers because according to Klein ‘image is everything’ (1993, p. 3) and that ‘the goals of competitive bodybuilders are not simply to be champions but to become Mr. Olympias and Mr. Universe (Ibid, p. 3). This could also link to the symbolic capital.
Contributors to the recently established sociology of the body (e.g. Nettleton and Watson 1998, Shilling 1993) reference Giddens (1991) when contextualizing a burgeoning social scientific interest in bodily matter. According to Giddens, contemporary society (what he terms ‘high’ or ‘late’ modernity) is a post traditional order where ‘the self, like the broader institutional context in which it exists, has to be reflexively made’ (1991: 3) in Monaghan 1993, p. 4. So in relation to the body builders it could be suggested to what Monaghan calls ‘striving to create ‘the perfect body’ (1999a in Monaghan 1999, p. 708). So in the case of the bodybuilders, they practice using body enhancement medication so that they could work and reach that potential. This can be illustrated again by Monaghan ‘bodybuilding, a project like activity’ (Bloor et al 1998) adopted by the denizens of the late modernity, represents one choice (among many) for sustaining a coherent narrative of self (Giddens 1991). It can be argued that in a post traditional world there is confusion, as science has taken over traditional authority, so it can be argued that bodybuilders take risks. It was stated by Monaghan that ‘ bodybuilders who are steroid users, are engaging in chemical, not just social constructions (Bloor et al 1998: 41); hence the beneficial possibilities of science and technology become double edged, creating new parameters for risk (1999, p. 726).
Advertising is said to have given rise to why so much importance is placed on the human body. It has always proposed the idea that it can fix any imperfection of the body and that such solutions are available to anyone who is ready. This can be related to Marchands Democracy of goods. Maguire & Stanway stated “images of ideal bodies seem to be very important in contemporary society” (2008: 1). This is why Liess et al 1997: 7 argued that advertising is ‘one of the great vehicles of social communication’ and Williams  1993:321 stated that advertising is ‘an institutionalized system of commercial information and persuasion’. This may be why it was suggested by Hitzler 1988 that the individual has to recognize and acknowledge the body and self as flawed, inadequate or at least incomplete, and identifying areas for transformation and the appropriate tools, practices and experts to perform that work. The self, in other words, becomes a do-it-yourself project (in Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 2002: 3). Consequently, the advertizing system dictates to society what the body should look like. The implication of a bodybuilder, it is the idea of the drug taking. They do not think of the negative consequences that these drugs would have overall on their wellbeing. That is why Giddens argues that the conditions of late modernity have important implication for psychic processes as well as the body. ‘The reflexivity of the self extends to the body, where the body is part of an action system rather than merely a passive object’ (Giddens 1991: 77) For him the body is ‘reflexively mobilised’, available to be ‘worked upon’ by the influences of high modernity (1991: 218) in Monaghan 1993, p. 5.The advertising system needs conforming/passive individuals so as to achieve their goals. They look for the weaknesses that individuals dread on and use that to their advantage, and those who conform not would most probably not achieve their potential goals. The advertising system makes it a norm that people’s body is meant to look a certain way, and if you don’t look that way that which the system proposes, then the individual would be picked on.
With advertising practices constantly being portrayed to the public and the increasing idea given to the public that they can fix whatever faults they have on their body. The more likely individuals are exposed to these ideas, the more they are to succumb to this culture of paying so much attention on their body. Consequently be looked on as being self obsessed. Lasch’s book called ‘The culture of narcissism’ describes the major changes that occurred in the 1970’s explained by Cashmore 2006: 101, It describes ‘the apotheosis of individualism,’ in which self centered feeling or conduct reached its highest state of development. After the turbulent 1960’s in which people all over the world challenged and subverted traditional ideals, values, and norms […] Their rebellious efforts changed hearts and minds, but not the material facts. So, they ‘retreated to purely personal pre-occupation,’ according to Lasch, ‘getting in touch with their feeling, eating health food, taking lessons in ballet or belly dancing [aˆ¦]overcoming the ‘fear of pleasure’. (1980:4) Thus advertising and ‘marketing would constantly be producing the tools for reshaping appearances’ (Maguire & Stanway 2008: PAGE). In the context of bodybuilding, these tools could be the use of drugs/steroids to make their muscles bigger. Bloor et al. 1998 ‘Bodybuilding, perhaps more so than others athletic pursuit, is a socio-cultural environment which normalises the instrumental use (as opposed to ‘abuse’) of steroids and accessory drugs’ (Monaghan 1999, p. 707). Moreover, the implication of bodybuilders would continually change their body so as to continually fit with what the bodybuilding system and advertising has in trend as a result fit in society and feel a sense of belonging. This can be further illustrated by Arnold and Price who stated that ‘the second mode of self-making is the authoritative performance in which feeling of community, acceptance and belonging arise from shared participation or shared rituals’ (2000: 155 cited in Maguire & Stanway 2008, p. 9). This could be related to the related to the symbolic and the economic capital. The symbolic capital in the sense that society accepts bodybuilders using drug so, when these individuals achieve that body, they would be more likely to get jobs so, it works in a two way advantage, they get the job they want (economic capital) and the bodybuilding industry get the labour that they pay for.
In contemporary society, greater emphasis has being placed on the body as well as beauty and being beautiful as it’s seen as part of forming one’s identity. This can be illustrated by Shilling (2003) who argued that “there is tendency for the body to become increasingly central to the modern person’s sense of self-identity”. People are starting to think more and be concerned of how others view and perceive them. This could be said that their body is for other to gaze at it, an example could be given from ‘Pumping Iron 2: The women’, the scene at 3 minutes 07 seconds where they all had to show off their body, to an admiring audience who were all applauding. This could be related to the narcissistic self as Cashmore stated ‘the narcissist depends on others to validate his self esteem,’ observed Lasch. He cannot live without an admiring audience aˆ¦ for the narcissist, the world is a mirror’ (1980: 10 in Cashmore 2006, p. 102). This could be said to a certain extent that these bodybuilders need society to approve of their body. They want their body to be adored. The act of thinking of one’s body on how people perceive them could be said to link to the other directed self. (WHICH LINKS TO PARABLE OF FIRST IMPRESSION (EWEN 1999, MARCHAND 1985) this could link to the body form of body builder in the sense that the first impression that one gets from them is that they are very strong. Woodward further stated that “one only has to think of the rewards received by professional sports people across the world, to see how bodily performances can be exchanged for financial rewards. Nightclubs and disco’s frequently employ body-builders as bouncers, while prostitutes use their bodies to earn a living” Woodward 1997: 88. It can be argued that different classes treat their bodies differently, as Shilling stated according to Bourdieu “that the working class tend to develop an instrumental relation to their body as they have little time free from necessity. The body is a means to an end aˆ¦” 2003, p. 114. It was also argued that “workers who use their bodies all day in heavy manual labor tend to have little time for what they see as ‘pretension’ of jogging and health and fitness centres [aˆ¦] ‘the working class are concerned to spend their efforts on weightlifting and activities directed towards strength, both field in which manual dominance can be asserted’ (ibid: 114). So in relation to the body form of a bodybuilder, according to Bourdieu’s theory, they would be classed as a working class, as they are only wanting to survive and strive through life with what their body can achieve for them financially. Whereas it can be said in relation to Bourdieu’s theory that the dominant class differ such gratification, the dominant class, used their body for cultural, social capital etc this can be illustrated by Shilling who stated that “dominant classes have the time and resources to treat the body as a project ‘with variants according to whether the emphasis is placed on the intrinsic functioning of the body as an organism, which leads to the macrobiotic cult of health, or on the appearance as a perceptible configuration, the “physique”, i.e. the body for other’ (Bourdieu, 1978: 838; 1984: 212- 13). The dominant class tend not to be overly concerned with producing a large, strong body, but with a slim body better ‘suited to the world in which economic practice is constituted more strongly by the presentation of self’ (Wilkes, 1990: 118) in Shilling, p. 114
The body is also said to have possessed power and freedom in our current society whereas in previous society (Traditional Society) there were restrictions and people did not have the choice to do what they wanted. “The personality rather than character has come to be much more important in contemporary society” which was stated by Warren 1979: 212-26 in Ewen 1999). Thus great power is placed on the individual, as a result, they are allowed to do what they want with that power, consequently, citizenship duty and work no longer seem to be important rather attractiveness, creativity and a fascinating personality is much more preferred in the society. As it was further argued by Shilling from Bourdieu’s angle that “in traditional societies, power is exercised more directly by one embodied individual over another, whereas in contemporary society “the modern body has a far more complex role in the exercise of power and the reproductions of social inequalities” (2003). That power in relation to the bodybuilder is the possession of medicine. Monaghan stated ‘Empirical data on perceptions of the medical profession, risk, and bodybuilders’ various sources of ethno-scientific knowledge, suggest that medicine is simply one ‘authority’ among many in the construction of the self and the body within late modernity'(1999: 707). This refers to the muscle enhancement drugs. Baudrillard’s point of view, he suggests that ‘the body has today become an object of salvation’ (Baudrillard 1998). This further illustrates how the body is viewed in contemporary society and portrays the amount of freedom that individuals possess thus bodybuilder take pride in themselves and worship their body as they believe it is the way they would be able to achieve their goals. This can be related to the culture of narcissism based on the individuals point of view as Cashmore stated that ‘there are two dimensions of the culture of narcissism: on one hand swatches of people abandoned their collective endeavours and contented themselves with individual quests for satisfaction and happiness: yet, on the other, they depend on each other for confirmation that they are looking and feeling good’ (2006: 102). This therefore means that, although they have this individual power, they still need other people to validate them. Baudrillard (1998), “the body is no longer flesh [aˆ¦] but is taken up again in its materiality as narcissistic cult object” so in relation to body building, it could be seen that individuals who take part in these activities are vain and think too much about themselves. Cashmore in relation to the narcissistic self that these individuals are getting in touch with their primordial sense of self (2006)
According to Shilling 1993 ‘the idea of physical capital is easily grasped by thinking of ways in which sports men and women convert physical ability into income or the ways that models, or even prostitutes use their bodies for material gain’ (www.aare.edu.au.01pap/lig01450.htm). Of course the ways in which the opposing classes of our society use their body would be totally different. And it could be said they view beauty differently because of the way the body is treated, to illustrate this idea Shilling argued that ‘bodies are also formed through the development of taste [aˆ¦] preferences, lifestyles which are rooted in material constraints’ (2003: 113). Bourdieu also argued that “the act of labour are required to turn bodies into social entities and that these act influences, people develop and hold the physical shape of their bodies and learn how to present their bodies through styles of walk, talk and dress” in Shilling 2003: 112. Thus it can be argued that both types of bodies are a source of physical capital. Consequently, ‘the body bears the indisputable imprint of an individual’s social class’ (Bourdieu, 1984) in Shilling 2003, p. 112. Thus, ‘people develop preferences for what is available to them’ Shilling 2003, p. 113
Lasch saw no harm in any of these pursuits in themselves, but he rued the break with history, the turning away from collective activity, and the switch from trying to change society to changing oneself. Personal well-being health, and psychic security became the motivating goal for the generation that had earlier wanted to change the world (Cashmore 2006: 102)
From a theoretical stance one could posit that it is only within a deregulated and essentially postmodern world, where people have the freedom to explore the self and the body in new ways (Kelleher et al. 1994: xxii) that such activity is possible. An empirical illustration of the thesis that the body is less and less an intrinsic ‘given’, that we perceive them to be more pliable and are actively seeking to alter, improve and refine them (Giddens 1991, Nettleton and Watson 1998) in Monaghan 1999, p. 708
This is because an individual’s body is never ‘fully finished’. While the body is implicated in society, it is constantly affected by social, cultural and economic processes (Bourdieu, 1985) in Shilling 2003, p. 116 aˆ¦. With the resources, to treat the body as a lifelong project. 2003, p. 112
Bourdieu states “bodies are involved in the creation and reproduction of social differences, more specially, they bear the imprint of social class because of three main factors: an individual’s social location; their formation of their habitus; and the development of their taste” in Woodward (1997). This can then be said as to why Bourdieu believe that the body “is a bearer of value in contemporary society” in Shilling 2003, p. 111. And that the body is in continuation of many changes this is why Bourdieu emphasized “The body is an unfinished entity which develops in conjunction with various social forces and is integral to the maintenance of social inequalities aˆ¦” in Shilling 2003, p. 113
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