Ageing, The Body and Social Change: Agency and Indentity by Tulle Emmanuelle

By Tulle Emmanuelle

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By Tulle Emmanuelle

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As sociologists we must explore the structures in which social actors manage their impending “frailty’’. The next theme might be a useful tool with which to understand the situated nature of body management. The second theme is that of the physical activity as social world. Wacquant (1995: 65) talks about examining “ ‘the daily lifeworld’ of pugilists’’. All athletes transform their raw physical capital into competent capital at the track, in the gym or the ballet school. Trainers, coaches, 36 Ageing, the Body and Social Change managers, teachers all provide a framework in which the rules and the lore of the activity are learnt.

Featherstone (1982, 1987) has been instrumental in bringing to light the impact of consumption on bodies. From his body of work, notions such as the rationalisation of bodies, the unfinished status of the body and the construction of embodiment as body work in the pursuit of a body project add up to an argument which links the rise of consumption with the achievement of socially and culturally valuable bodies. What is being documented here is a shift in sociality towards a concern with appearance and the achievement of “the look’’.

In other words, dispositions are not distributed randomly across populations and individuals but according to wider power relations. Social actors are engaged in securing as much capital as their habitus position will allow. Capital, in Bourdieu’s system, refers to “the capacity to exercise control over one’s own future and that of others. As such it is a form of power [. ], it also serves to reproduce class distinctions’’ (Postone et al. 1993: 4–5). Accordingly, accumulating and consolidating capital can only be done within the confines of one’s class habitus.

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