The Body & Society

Turner, Bryan S. 2008. The Body & Society. Third Edition. Nottingham: Nottingham Trent University.

Human beings are often thought to have needs because they have bodies. Our basic needs are thus typically seen as physical: the need to eat, sleep and drink is a basic featuer of people or organic systems. It is also in social philosophy to recognize needs which are not overly physical, for example the need for companionship or self-respect. 'Need' implies 'necessity', for the failure to satisfy needs results in impairment, malfunction and displeasure. The satisfaction of a need produces pleasure as a release from the tension of an unresolved need. The result is that 'need' is an explanatory concept in a theory of motivation which argues that behaviour is produced by the search for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. (Turner 2008: 17)
This is akin to the Socratic motive that the body is an 'impediment', and 'imperfection'.
Sociology is literally the wisdom or knowledge (logos) of friendship (socius). (Turner 2008: 18)
Huh. Makes perfect sense. Also, In light of this perhaps what I call nonverbalism should instead be called corpologia?
Within the Christian ascetic tradition, sexuality came to be seen as largely incompatible with religious practice. In particular, sexual enjoyment is a particular threat to any attempt to create a systematic religious response to sinfulness. This problem of subordinating sexuality to a rational lifestyle forms the basis of much of Weber's view of the origins of religious intellectualism and rationalization. The argument is that 'ascetic alertness, self-control, adn methodical planning of life are seriously threatened by the peculiar irrationality of the sexual act, which is ultimately and uniquely unsusceptible to rational organization' (Weber, 1966: 238). One 'solution' to this dilemma of human existence was the division of the religious community as an elite which withdrew from the world in order to abstain from sexuality and the mass which remained embedded in the profane world of everyday society. (Turner 2008: 19)
This is very much the same argument Winston draws for the condemnation of sexuality in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Even the latter aspect has its equals: the party members were to be the "elite" that abstained from sex and the proletariat mass was left to do whatever they wished.
Social thought has been modelled around the notion that human beings are simultaneously part of nature in so far as they have bodies and part of society in so far as they have minds. Social contract theories from Hobbes onwards resolve this dilemma by arguing that, as a rational animal, it was in the interest of men to form binding contracts in order to have security inside society. In forming contracts, men give up certain natural rights and submit to authority, whether in the person of the king or a government, to achieve some respite from the insecurities of their natural condition. (Turner 2008: 24)
I take issue with social contract thories as I am an individualist and don't remember signing any contract which obliges me to give up my freedoms in exchange for security.
Language is an impersonal system of communication in which we surrender our individuality. Language represents the authority of society over the unconscious. (Turner 2008: 24)
Again I take issue, as I don't feel myself surrendering my individuality. Nonverbalism, semiophrenia and concursivity are examples of my insubordination.
Despite the trend in sociology to see all human attributes as the product of social determinism, sociology and social thought are often founded upon a concept of homo duplex in which the individual is a complex balance of asocial passions and social reason. For example, Durkheim, who is often regarded as the sociological determinist par excellence, also adhered to the model of double-man. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life argued:
Man is double. There are two beings in him: an individual being which has its foundations in the organism and the circle of those activities is therefore strictly limited, and a social being which represents the highest reality in the intellectual and moral order that we can know by observation - I mean society. (Durkheim, 1961, p. 29)
The role of culture is to impose on the individual the collective representations of the group and to restrain passions by collective obligations and social involvements. Without cultural restraint, the individual is under certain circumstances driven by excessive expectations toward anomic suicide. (Turner 2008: 25)
The concept of homo duplex may indeed prove useful, although I have already gone through the phase of dividing man into three: biological/natural, social/cultural and individual/idiosyncratic. That is, in my scheme, not only culture but also nature impose itself on the individual. Nowhere is this more evident than in Huxley's Brave New World wherein people are bokanowskified into classes of persons.
While there is a theoretical link between Durkheimian sociology and modern structuralism, there are also important differences. For example, Foucault does not see power as always constraining; indeed he regards power as productive and enabling. Power does not so much deny sexuality as produce it for purposes that lie outside the individual. (Turner 2008: 26)
This may be the key to understand Foucault's productive power in terms of nonverbal behavior: that power produces certain forms of behavior "for purposes that lie outside the individual".
The critique of capitalist consumerism has eventually to rest on some notion of real needs and on some distinction between need and pleasure. Desires are 'vain', but needs are 'real'; capitalism operates at the level of trivial pleasures, but it cannot, according to the consumer critique, ultimately satisfy our needs. Behind this argument there is another assumption: exchange-value is bad, use-value is good (Kellner, 1983). By virtue of embodiment, we have real and mundane needs which must be satisfied and these needs are universal, which in some respects defines what it is to be a member of the human species. (Turner 2008: 30)
The exchange-value/use-value debate is current at the moment with the eviction of local squat. The official owner of the squatted house is a 100-year old millionaire who hasn't visited the country in 70 years but had his parents' houses given to him by the government when the eastern block fell. The squatters are evicted because, although they have fixed up the place, they don't own it. The case reminds me a passage in The Little Prince, if I'm not mistaken, where people who don't live in houses own them.
The problem is that we live in a socially constructed reality and our pleasures are acquired in a social context, but this is also true of 'need'. To some extent the contrast between 'nature' and 'culture'. Our needs are seen to be real because they are natural and they are natural because our bodies are a feature of the natural landscape of our existence. By contrast, desires are vain because they are cultivated. Out culture emerges from the cultivation of our bodies and the more civilized we become, the more unnecessary our cultural baggage appears to be. (Turner 2008: 30-31)
Pretty general, but to some extent certainly true.
Biology is cognitive systematization (Rescher, 1979). Biological facts exist but they exist by virtue of classificatory practices which preclude fixed points (such as 'nature') precisely because we inhabit a world that is perspectival. (Turner 2008: 31)
I wonder if the same can be said about semiotics. E.g. there are semiotic facts ("semiosis" occurs naturally) but they exist by virtue of semiophrenia (sign-thinking).
From a structuralist perspective, 'biologism' is one type of discourse; 'feminism' is another. (Turner 2008: 31)
This is a missing key to my typology of nonverbalism - that nonverbalism is also a type of discourse (one which prioritizes nonverbal before the verbal).
There exists a theoretical prudery with respect to human corporality which constitutes an analytical gap at the core of sociological enquiry. The collective phenomena of births, ageing and mortality have become the academic monopoly of historical and mathematicla demography, where the moral and social significance of these events is subdued in favour of exact calculation. What one might term the theodicy of the body is equally neglected even in the sociology of religion (Turner, 1983). The oddity of the failure of sociology to develop a theory of the body is emphasized by the prevalence of commonsense notions that diet, jogging, fasting, slimming and exercise are not merely essential aids to sexual fulfilment, but necessary features of self development in a society grounded in personalized consumption. (Turner 2008: 33)
This theoretical prudery is prevalent even in semiotics. And ageing and mortality are in some ways matters which I'll be dealing with in the future.
The external world, including the human body, is not a given, but an historical reality constantly mediated by human labour and interpreted through human culture. The human body as a limiting point of human experience and consciousness seemed less important than the collective reality of the social world within which the self was located. The legitimate rejection of biological determinism in favour of sociological determinism entailed, however, the exclusion of the body from the sociological imagination. The primary dichotomy of sociological theory was not Nature/Society, but Self/Society. (Turner 2008: 34)
It is now the case that the word combination "sociological imagination" conjures up an image of C. Wright Mills.
Sociology extracted itself from the physical sciences as a model of social theory by viewing itself, according to Max Weber (1978), as an 'interpretative science' of the meaning of social action and interaction. Such interaction occurred between entitites which were designated as 'the self' or 'the social actor' or 'the social agent'. The interaction of bodies is 'behaviour', whereas the interaction between social actors involves meaning and choice; it is the proper object of sociology. [...] For example, Alfred Schutz (1962) made an elementary distinction between direct, face-to-face interaction with consociates and indirect action with predecessors, successors and contemporaries. (Turner 2008: 34)
This indirect action sounds like the interaction between reader and the text and everything involved with the text in Lotman's theory of culture.
While human society has changed fundamentally over the last 2000 years, sociobiology would suggest that the human body has remained, in all important respects, physiologically static. The implications of this juxtaposition are that a sociology of the body would be an ahistorical enterprise. Such a conclusion is, however, fundamentally misguided, since the questions of 'the body' and 'the population' in relation to socio-cultural structures are necessarily historical. (Turner 2008: 37)
Even nonverbalism is not ahistorical. Although sermo corporis was known in ancient times, it was concerned with fundamentally different questions than we are today. And future thinkers will unavoidably be interested in completely different aspects of today's study of nonverbal communication.
Within the sociology of knowledge, therefore, it is possible ot trace a secularization of the body in which the body ceases to be the object of a sacred discourse of flesh and becomes an object within a medical discourse where the body is a machine to be controlled by appropriate scientific regimens. The history of this transition is complex. In gymnastic systems, the rationalization of movement represented an application of Borelli's iatrophysical school of medicine (Broekhoff, 1972). In dietary practices, there was a shift away from an eighteenth-century concern for long life as a religious value to the nineteenth-century concern for the efficient quantification of the body (Turner, 1982a). The result of these changes was to reify and objectify the body as an object of exact calculation. (Turner 2008: 38)
For me this sounds like the discipline of the body.
The body lies at the centre of political struggles. While it can be argued unambiguously that the physiology of men and women represents a major difference (in reproductive functions), gender identity and gender personality have to be inserted into physiology by socialization into specific roles and identities. (Turner 2008: 40)
This is tantamount to the foucaultian statement that "the body is the nexus of power relations."
Most forms of sociological theorizing make a sharp separation between the self and the body. G. H. Mead who in many respects provided the original philosophical basis of symbolic interactionalism, wrote in Mind, Self and Society that
We can distinguish very definitely between the self and the body. The body may be there and operate in a very intelligent fashion without there being a self involved in the experience. The self has the characteristic that it is object to itself and that characteristic distinguishes it from other objects and from the body. (Mead, 1962, vol. 1: 136)
While the Self/Society contrast became the main focus of interactionist theory, it is also the case that most proponents of itneractionism argue that the self is realized through performance. Crucial to self-performance is the presentation of the body in everyday life. It is possible therefore to reinterpret Goffman's sociology as not the study of the representation of the self in social gatherings but the performance of the self through the medium of the socially interpreted body. (Turner 2008: 41)
I think Mead is here refering to the automaticity of bodily behavior. Turner can turn a phrase ("the presentation of the body..." instead of self) but think he is mistaken in distinguishing the body and the self so strongly, as most of Goffman's theories are still based on bodily behavior. The self is merely his "device" much like "power" is for my work.
For Foucault, sexual repression is a myth, since sex has in fact become the object and product of endless scientific discourses - psychoanalysis, demography, biology, medical science - which aim to control and normalize sexuality. (Turner 2008: 47)
This actually links up with Goffman's nonverbalism, that "the expressive order" is a means to control and normalize bodily behavior.
...Foucault has also said that, rather than starting with the analysis of ideology, it would be 'more materialist to study first the question of the body and the effects of power on it' (Foucault, 1981: 139). Such a materialist project would appear to take the corporeality of life seriously. (Turner 2008: 47)
It is as if it is my nonverbalist project that is described here.
For Sartre, the body is our contact with the world which constitutes our contingency. Briefly, his argument is that we do not know other minds, but only minds as they are apprehended through the body. (Turner 2008: 51)
Sounds like the basic tenant of behaviorism - that only overt behavior is available for study. Sartre's threefold distinction of body-for-itself (the proprioceptive body), the body-for-others (the social body) and being-in-body (the body-for-me) are interesting and merit further study later on, perhaps even comparison with Uexküllian um-, innen- and lebenswelt.
Furthermore, we cannot discuss the body without having a central concern for intentions: the objective, 'outside' world is always connected to my body in terms of my body's actions or potential actions on it. To perceive the world is to reflect upon possible actions of my body in the world. Similarly, I experience my body as mine through my intimate, concrete control over my body.
is me, and expresses me: it is at once the self-embodiment of my psychic life, and the self-expressiveness of my phsychic life. Thus, we can say, the problem of the experience of the body is the problem of embodiment. ... The phenomenology of the animate organism is, accordingly, the descriptive-explicative analysis of the continuously on-going automic embodiment of consciousness by one organism singled out as peculiarly "its" own, and, at higher levels, graspable by me as 'my own'. (Zaner, 1964: 261)
This view of the body from a phenomenological perspective is particularly important for sociology and, as I demonstrate in later chapters, especially for medical sociology as a critique of behaviourism. While the body is an object with specific physiological characteristics and thus subject to natural processes of ageing and decay, it is never just a physical object. As embodied consciousness, the body is drenched with symbolic significance. (Turner 2008: 51-52)
Very familiar tunes, although I don't feel myself at home with the many problems of intentionality just yet to dwell on these matters myself.
The idea of legal persons as legal unities, which were constituted as separate persons, was developed in the fourteenth century when Italian legal theorists were forced to deal with the emergence of corporaitons (Canning, 1980). While the law could conceive of human persons with rights and obligations, the law had not been fully developed to cope with collective entities like cities or trading corporations. To embrace such entities, the legal theorists developed the notion of persona ficta which was eventually developed into persona universalis - one person composed of many. (Turner 2008: 53)
Some good-to-know stuff. Especially relevant to recent developments in American politics, e.g. "corporations are people."
The idea that the individual person possessed self-consciousness is equally an historical notion. As Mauss (1979) has shown, the idea of the unity of body, person and consciousness is the result of a protracted historical process. The concept of 'person' comes from persona, mask which was external to the individual. When persona in Roman law came to equal the 'self', it still excluded slaves who did not own their bodies, had no personality and had no claims over property. (Turner 2008: 54)
In a similar manner modern army recruits are not persons because there is no unity between the body, person and consciousness. By way of obligation, training and eventual self-mortification, the body is separated from personhood and self-consciousness. Simply put: "privates" do not possess their own bodies.
The crucial issue in the debate about personhood is, however, that human persons are regarded as entities which are bearers of rights and responsibilities; to be a human person is to be capable of rational choice and consequently to be held responsible for one's actions. (Turner 2008: 54)
I'm still caught in confusion as to how some responsibilities make sense. I recognize that I am responsible for my own action, but how the f*** am I responsible for defending the state with the price of my life if I do not think the state worthy of being defended (because it does not ask me if I wish to defend it). It is a conundrum.
One crucial feature is that we do not morally or legally hold animals responsible for their actions. A tiger which kills a man is not blamed for actions which are regarded as instinctual; a man who kills a tiger is blamed for actions which endanger a protected species. Furthermore, a person cannot be excused by saying 'my body did it' because we are thought to have intimate rulership, to follow Husserl, over our bodies. However, thus question of responsibility and control over our bodies raises particularly difficult issues for phenomenologists. (Turner 2008: 54-55)
The phrase is neat but I cannot agree with it, as there are many behaviors for which we cannot be held responsible for as we are unawares of their occurrence.
Nonverbalism could also be defined as the cultural and historical study of nonverbal communication and discourse about it. That is, it must surpass nonverbal communication research as such and investigate all forms of knowledge related to the human body, e.g. something like corporealogy (corpology is the study of defecation).


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