The Body – Session 4

During the fourth session of constellation we explored the body in regards to health and how people began to realise that the eating and drinking of certain foods impact the body and its efficiency to perform. We also explored how the body is a bearer of capital – value.

It was George Chainy; the author of The English Malady, 1715, who advocated weight loss and a healthy lifestyle. This was because during the 1750s there was an increase in industrialisation – which ultimately caused a changed in peoples lives.

As people fled to the city to find work, the water within cities was not clean enough to drink. Due to this people would drink the only beverage available – alcohol. The more alcohol people drank the worse the effect this would have on their bodies causing them to be drunk. However, factories needed a healthy workforce, because if people were drunk they could not operate the machinery. Therefore this change in lifestyle meant that bodies were disciplined through diet and temperance.

The 20th and 21st century brought about a new change; consumer culture. It is known that we don’t just buy for the value but because of their desirability and statements they make about the owner. Veblen (1952); ‘We surround ourselves with goods to portray identity and achieve social status.’ 

The buying of consumer goods, home furnishings and interior design etc. is designed to be distinct, but Bordieu noticed similarities in groups. Inner body: health, well-being. Outer body: appearance, surveillance. In essence the body becomes currency – better body, better assets i.e. ‘I shop for things that make me better than you.’

Where does capital come from?

  • Habitus – our background and upbringing – we learn about social tastes and preferences.
  • Physical capital – demonstration through products owned i.e. cars, yachts etc. -how bodies are used i.e. David Beckham’s body as an athlete used to sell clothes.
  • Social – access to highly prized materials or positions e.g. being a wealthy celebrity – David Beckham being married to Victoria Beckham increases their social status.
  • Cultural – access to knowledge i.e. my cultural capital should increases due to going to University.

Overall, I found the session to be interesting in regards to the change in the way the body  is viewed. People began to take notice of the physical effects occurring within the body when eating and drinking too much and over time, this grew into the body being marketed and a bearer of capital. In reflection the body can be used as a marketing tool within advertising. Living in a consumerist market means that the body is seen as something that is valued based on what capital it contains.



Author: marislathamgraphics

I am a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University studying BA Hons Graphic Communication.

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