Are you sitting comfortably? The political economy of the body


Address for correspondence: Peter Wilkin, School of Social Sciences, Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH


The aim of this paper is to examine the relationship between the mass production of furniture in modern industrial societies and lower back pain (LBP). The latter has proven to be a major cost to health services and private industry throughout the industrialised world and now represents a global health issue as recent WHO reports on obesity and LBP reveal. Thus far there have been few co-ordinated attempts to deal with the causes of the problem through public policy. Drawing upon a range of sources in anthropology, health studies, politics and economics, the paper argues that this a modern social problem rooted in the contingent conjuncture of natural and social causal mechanisms. The key question it raises is: what are the appropriate mechanisms for addressing this problem? This paper develops an analysis rooted in libertarian social theory and argues that both the state and the capitalist market are flawed mechanisms for resolving this problem. There remains a fundamental dilemma for libertarians, however. Whilst the state and the market may well be flawed mechanisms, they are the dominant ones shaping global political economy. To what extent can libertarians work within these structures and remain committed to libertarian goals?