Capitalism and the Body

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Georgina MURRAY, Griffith University, Australia
Marco ÖCHSNER, Griffith University, Australia
Capitalism and the Body

What is capitalism doing now to the human body?

We argue that capital in its current neoliberal manifestation organizes the body to maximize profits. As such, it demands that bodies continuously produce: during work and during leisure. As consumer-producers, subjects in neoliberalism are always embedded in circuits of capital flows; it makes no difference if one is behind or in front of the counter. There is no possibility to negate exploitation - even apparent ‘non-productive’ activities, such as playing games, drinking, sleep, all serve to recover the body for more labour production. We ask, what is the extent of the demands that capital has made in the past, and makes today, on the body. Why has this changed? And are the limits to a body being exposed now?

We identify three major limits capital faces in regards to the body: limitations internal to the body, such as sleep/wake cycles, necessity for social connection or attention span limitations; limitations external to the body, such as environmental conditions (pollution, displacement of people due to climate change); limitations of the demands itself, due to incoherent or impossible demands (e.g. desirability of both obesity-inducing fast food and of a healthy body).

We then ask, what mechanisms are in place to stabilize this ultimately dangerous and unsustainable system: from pharmacological enhancers (from caffeine to adderall, weight loss supplements, nutritional substitutes) to physical optimizers (gym memberships, electronic calorie and exercise trackers, dietary guidebooks). We surmise that those who fail to integrate and to generate profit, become ‘subjects’ through secondary pathways’

It is from within this framework that we look at how the human body fits into the system. What is demanded of this body? How does it adapt? Is this sustainable? Are these developments desirable? If so, why?