Body Image Politics and Postdemocratic Operation
The Rancere and Brown readings brought the operation of body politics to my mind. Ranciere describes democracy as “politics’ mode of subjectification…[a] singular disruption of this order of distribution of bodies as a community that we proposed to conceptualize in the broader concept of the police.” (99) The author argues that there is a duality of a social body and a body that displaces any social identification. This detail makes me think of body image politics- not just the female body but perhaps especially so. Is the policy of post-democracy operating in the same was as body-shaming in the media?
Ranciere likens postdemocracy as “an uninterrupted count that presents the total of public opinion as identical to the body of the people.” I interpret this statement as the documentable output of a person or people is identical to the value of the person or people. Like Human Capital, It isn’t the person that is valuable/necessary— it is the non-tangible skill set of the person that is required. I think body image politics works much the same way. It isn’t the person- it’s the accessories which are valuable. Democratic opinion works through the examination of polls and samples. “ In it the people are never again uneven, uncountable, or unpresentable. They are always both totally present and totally absent at once. They are entirely caught in a structure of the visible where everything is on show and where there is thus no longer any place for appearance.” (101) The individual is at once visible and silent. The choices one makes rather than the character of said personal are catalogued.
Why does this make me think of body image politics? Media tells the masses that we have a choice, that we are free to express ourselves as individuals and live however we see fit; however, we are also given a set of rules which are deemed moral and rational. “Neo-liberalism does not simply assume that all aspects of society, cultural and political life can be reduced to such a calculus, rather it develops institutional practices and rewards for enacting this vision.” (4) It is rational to be healthy (except healthy means thin). It is immoral to by lazy. To be a productive person, one must be hard-working and prove his or her value. Value is then tied up in how much space you don’t occupy. Brown describes individuals as “rational, calculating creatures whose moral autonomy is measured by their capacity for “self-care”— the ability to provide for their own needs and service their own ambitions.” (6)
The problem cycles back to our discussion of ‘real democracy’ and ‘human capital’. Media bombards individuals with images of what is ‘natural’ what is ‘valuable’. The individual becomes responsible for believing the ‘natural’ and for maintaining a moral, natural, valuable image. You are irrational, sick, and/or lazy if you don’t. The system operates my means of costs, benefits, and consequences. One must by the products he or she is told to buy (cost for individual, profit for the market economy), one reaps the benefits (we are told it’s a win/win scenario), and one is told there will be consequences if you choose not to fit into the given model. You are free to make your own decisions. just make sure you make the right one. because the only moral choice is the right choice.