You are on page 1of 6

Theorists of modernity have long argued that while the modern age

has
developed alongside a gradual de sacralization of social life, it has
failed to
replace religious certainties with scientific certainties of the same
order.
Science may have increased our control over life (though, crucially,
it has
not conquered death), yet it has failed to provide us with values to
guide
our lives (Weber, 1 948 [ 1 9 1 9] ) . Instead, there has been a
gradual privatization
of meaning in modernity. This has left increasing numbers of
individuals alone with the task of establishing and maintaining
values to
make sense out of their daily lives.
Nonetheless, while classical sociology has not yet dealt adequately
with
the full implications of human embodiment, this does not justify the
statement that sociology has adopted an entirely disembodied
approach
towards its subject matter. Max Weber's ( 1 985 [ 1 90405 ] ; 1 94 8 [ 1 9 1 5 ] ) writings displayed an interest in the
rationalization of
the body, and the 'shelters' from physical instrumentalism provided
by art,
love and eroticism. a Weberian focus on the
particular styles of life and attributions of honour or dishonour that
define
status groups
----The dual status of the body in sociology is clearly apparent in the
concerns
and work of the 'founding fathers' of the discipline. On the one hand,
Karl
Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and other classical sociologists
such
as Georg Simmel, Ferdinand Tonnies and Karl Mannheim rarely
focused
on the body in its entirety as a subject of investigation. Turner ( 1 9
9 1 a: 7)
has even gone so far as to argue that 'The question of the
ontological status
of social actors remained submerged, and in so far as classical
social

sociology has tended to concentrate on the conditions required for order and control or social change in society. and the waning power of religion and the gradual secularization of values and beliefs. or processes of rationalization and intellectualization (Simmel and Weber) Second. and Weber' s writings on the rationalization of the body within bureaucracy. 1 99 1 a: 7).theorists turned to such issues. and modernity. class struggle and the forces of production (Marx). urban centres and mechanization. which in practice meant the rational choice of ends' (Turner. The complexity of industrial capitalism generated an interest in its functioning which focused on . political and ideological revolutions occurring in Europe during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As well as being concerned with aspects of embodiment. On the other hand. the body was just too important to be excluded completely from the writings of these sociologists. the body as a physical component of social control had a habit of appearing in some of their most important writings on methodology. the rise of political democracy and citizenship. Durkheim's theory of the elementary processes underpinning the constitution of moral orders. This is particularly evident in Marx's analysis of how the development of capitalist technology linked and subordinated working class bodies to machinery. Classical sociologists were concerned with the growth in wage labour. This involved attempting to make sense of the industrial. The very scale of these changes appeared to necessitate explanations based on changes in such societal factors as the social division of labour (Durkheim). such as language and consciousness. the constitution of social systems. they defined the human actor in terms of agency. though.

it did encompass a commitment to the construction of theories based on interrelationships with a social rather than biological basis. The structure/agency dilemma (with Durkheim's concentration on social facts as 'things' and Weber's emphasis on verstehen https://en. This point is linked to the more general orientation that classical sociology assumed towards the conceptual dichotomies considered to be at the centre of sociological explanation. rational action. the capabilities required for human agency became equated with consciousness and the mind. its essential importance in understanding social life meant that classical sociologists were unable to ignore it completely. there has been a marginalized. This is exemplified by Weber's typology of social action which associated truly human action with intellectually-processed. As Turner ( 1 99 1 a) puts it.society as a social system. though. Unfortunately. While the body was frequently ruled out of court as the primary object of legitimate sociological concern. Third. the body was often conceptualized as a 'natural'. which did not warrant serious sociological analysis. at best. Bodies came to be seen. However. almost 'secret' history of the body which has included . The body was usually considered as a passive container which acted as a shell to the active mind (which was identified as distinguishing humans from animals) . pre-social phenomenon. this did not rule out a concern with individuals.org/wiki/Verstehen. to argue that classical sociology completely ignored the body. rather than with the management of the body as a whole. which has all too frequently been left to the province of philosophy.resolving this problem in very different ways) has usually taken precedence over issues concerned with the mind! body relationship. As the work of Simmel and Weber demonstrated. It would be inaccurate.wikipedia. as an uninteresting condition of social action.

Indeed. especially in terms of his analysis of the Protestant ethnic. Marcuse and Foucault. Weber was also concerned with the body in his writings on the protestant ethic. This especially directed puritans into business.the work of Marx. charisma and eroticism. the Calvinist view of predestination produced in people a deep insecurity which manifested itself in a motivation to lead a wholly disciplined and dedicated life on earth. rationalization. in which endless hours could be dedicated to the accumulation of money. ------The restraint of desire has traditionally been concerned with the regulation of female sexuality by systems of patriarchal power. social action. the 'iron cage' of bureaucracy. and developed later through the writings of Nietzsche. Elias. Weber argued that there was a close affinity between the rise of industrial capitalism in Europe and Protestantism's . Weber is regarded as the theorist of asceticism. Here. Central to this 'spirit of modern economic life' was the voluntary subjugation of the body to strict routine. Engels and Weber. Hard work and effort in the sphere of production was coupled with frugality and denial of the sensuous in the sphere of consumption. Turner ( 1 992b) has argued that implicit within Weber's work was a concern with the relationship between modernity and the body. in the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism ( 1 985 [ 1 904-5]). According to Weber. For example. Weber examines the Calvinist idea of the calling as a way of ascertaining the psychological conditions which accompanied modern capitalism. The mode by which society has attempted to control desire has involved an ideology of asceticism as a way of delaying sexual gratification.

The privatization of death could not be complete while it retained religious significance. alerts us to how purposeful interventions in the body can become meaningless in a modern world characterized by an . Protestantism prefigures the eventual. 1 984: 1 00) (εχει συνέχεια και από πάνω) -----Although death in this context remained an event of immense religious significance. Protestantism brought about a 'rational ordering of the body which was thus protected from the disruptions of desire in the interests of continuous factory production' (Turner. The purposeful. Giddens suggests that late modernity is characterized by a qualitative advance in technological control and an intensified concern with consumption in which the body becomes a central object of cultivation in its own right.stress on the idea of a ' calling'. there was less of an impulse to keep death in the public domain. and Max Weber's ( 1 9 9 1 [ 1 90405]. in Weber's term. To summarize. self-denial and hard work. Consequently. externally directed rational action Leder discusses has turned inwards to encompass the body as an object of attention. In making death more of an individual phenomenon. Weber's concern with the irrational consequences of rational action. helped prepare for the eventual desacralization of death itself. in contrast. more radical removal of death from public space. 1 94 8 [ 1 9 1 9] ) examination of the irrational consequences of rational action. The notion of body projects develops Anthony Giddens's ( 1 99 1 ) suggestion that the self has become a reflexively organized construct in the contemporary era of 'high modernity'. but with the decline of traditional religious belief. the Protestant desacralization or. disenchantment of much of reality.

.absence of moral criteria that previously informed how people developed their embodied identities.