Body, The

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The body is one of those extraordinarily useful concepts for political theorists. It is so because what other political theorists think, say, and do with it in their theories reveals an awful lot about their understanding of the stakes, the purposes, and the ways and means of politics. In fact, more often than not, the body functions as a cipher drawn into the breach of theorists’ political dissatisfaction. It is often depicted as the source of the aspirations or anxieties that drive the projects of political life. And sometimes it is perceived as the model or the material for the kinds of self‐ and civil‐crafting that political life demands. Perhaps the body is such a fertile concept in political theory because the sovereigns, subjects, and citizens who are the actors and objects of politics are happily, miserably – ineluctably – embodied. Whether the body is figured as an albatross or an answer, in political theory it is also a harbinger of order and disorder, of hope and despair, of slavish subjection and sublime political freedom.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Encyclopedia of Political Thought
EditorsMichael T Gibbons
ISBN (Electronic)9781118474396
StatePublished - 2014


  • biopower
  • human nature
  • identity
  • naturalism
  • natural law
  • sociobiology


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