How Ideas about the Body Have Become an Important Part of Contemporary Culture and Society

The extent to which there is consciousness about the body and how people feel about them will vary throughout their lives and within different social contexts. During the teenage years, for example, there is a likelihood of people becoming especially sensitive to the biological changes which their bodies endure and their altered appearance. Such changes can impact social relationships. Body-image, or how the body is perceived, may, in turn, affect people’s ability to relate to others and will influence how others respond to them. The physical changes associated with aging must also figure prominently in how the elderly feel about themselves, and form tangible reminders of mortality&nbsp. (Nettleton, 1998: 2).The Body and Social Change:&nbsp. The growing importance of the body is related to a&nbsp. number of factors. Firstly, feminist writers revealed the political status of the body as a medium of exploitation. An example of this is the way in which women have attempted to reclaim control over their own bodies from a male-dominated medical profession. Writers and activists who are concerned with a disability provide another illustration of the political status of the body. Turner (1992:12-13) quoted in Nettleton (1998: 5) has argued that the body has come to form a central field of political and cultural activity, in that the major concerns for governments revolve around the regulation of bodies. In this context, he describes contemporary society as a “somatic society” which relates to the body as distinct from some other entity such as the mind.
Second, demographic factors such as the “greying of populations” have highlighted the changing nature of bodies. Changes due to aging raise moral and ethical debates on issues such as euthanasia, draw attention to tricky questions that pertain to the “ownership” of bodies. Another related transformation is the changing nature of the disease burden. Whilst people are living longer, they are not necessarily healthier as there has been a concurrent rise in people who suffer from long-standing limiting illnesses (Dunnell 1995) quoted in Nettleton (1998: 5). &nbsp.&nbsp.&nbsp.&nbsp.