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Leisure and the Obligation of Self-Work: An Examination of the Fitness Field

By Jennifer Smith Maguire


This article examines the cultural field of fitness as a network of producers, consumers, products and practices that has developed around the care of the body through physical exercise. Drawing on a thematic text analysis of US exercise manuals, the paper focuses on how the commercial fitness field naturalizes associations between physical exercise and leisure, and between leisure and self-work. In particular, the analysis examines three themes and their relevance to our broader understanding of leisure in contemporary consumer society: the management of leisure time; the use of leisure for self-investment strategies; and the promotion of consumption as the framework for leisure and an accompanying notion of pleasure. The fitness field casts light on how leisure more generally is constructed as a sphere of obligations to make productive use of one's time, to improve one's body and self, and to do so through the wares of the consumer marketplace. The cultural imaginary of leisure as a time of freedom from work and responsibility is thus recast, in an age of individualization, as a time of freedom to accomplish the work of self-production

Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1080/02614360701605729
OAI identifier:

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