The virtue and vice of combining control and desire. Bodybuilding and post-industrial capitalism

By Taina Kinnunen, Guillaume Vallet

This article focuses on bodybuilding by considering it as an extreme sport based on the principle of pushing the limits or boundaries of the body as soon as they are reached. Consequently, by combining approaches from organization studies, cultural anthropology and feminist studies examining the body within a socio-economic context, we associate bodybuilding with post-industrial capitalism, since the latter is notably based on an economy of balancing embodied control with desire. Within the framework of bodybuilding, we discuss how the body’s relationship with these two poles constantly fluctuates and is manifested in individuals’ attitudes to their own health (physical, mental and social). This dualistic relationship is discussed at a more general level by analyzing the post-capitalist ideologies of the entrepreneurship of the self and the new working body, which emphasize personal risk management. Bodybuilding has thus moved far beyond its reputation as a curious subculture; on the contrary, it strongly appeals to any person hoping to maximize their physical competitiveness in post-industrial capitalist societies.


  • bodybuilding
  • post-industrial capitalism
  • working body
  • control
  • desire
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