chapter  2
13 Pages

Consuming bodies: Zygmunt Bauman on the difference between fitness and health


This chapter is concerned with examining the contribution of the work of Zygmunt Bauman to the understanding of health and embodiment in contemporary societies. Of necessity this will be a prismatic reading of a writer whose capacity to produce often more than one book a year can overwhelm anyone trying to get a grip on his overall thought. Certainly an assessment of the variety of manifestations of ‘liquid modernity’ put forward in Bauman’s work, including its relationship to postmodernism, is outside the scope of what is presented here. Instead what I propose to do is to examine the utility of Bauman’s use of the idea of ‘fitness’ in work that has a considerable bearing on both medical sociology and the sociology of the body. The potential insights offered by his understanding of the notion of fitness has played an important role in elaborating the way that consumer society has transformed the nature of what health is and how it functions in a world where many of our normative assumptions about life have been challenged by changes that ultimately lead to the emergence of a liquid modernity. By outlining this particular dimension of how individuals have to confront embodiment in the face of insatiable demands for perfection, a new point of departure can be created for the sociology of health and illness.