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The Autonomous Animal

Self-Governance and the Modern Subject

Claire E. Rasmussen

Publication Year: 2011

Autonomy is a vital concept in much of modern theory, defining the Subject as capable of self-governance. Democratic theory relies on the concept of autonomy to provide justification for participatory government and the normative goal of democratic governance, which is to protect the ability of the individual to self-govern.

Offering the first examination of the concept of autonomy from a postfoundationalist perspective, The Autonomous Animal analyzes how the ideal of self-governance has shaped everyday life. Claire E. Rasmussen begins by considering the academic terrain of autonomy, then focusing on specific examples of political behavior that allow her to interrogate these theories. She demonstrates how the adolescent—a not-yet-autonomous subject—highlights how the ideal of self-governance generates practices intended to cultivate autonomy by forming the individual’s relationship to his or her body. She points up how the war on drugs rests on the perception that drug addicts are the antithesis of autonomy and thus must be regulated for their own good. Showing that the animal rights movement may challenge the distinction between human and animal, Rasmussen also examines the place of the endurance athlete in fitness culture, where self-management of the body is the exemplar of autonomous subjectivity.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

During the long process of writing this book, I have been fortunate to have friends and critics contribute to my thinking. At the University of Washington I was privileged to work with Christine Di Stefano, Michael McCann, Nancy Hartsock, and Mika LaVaque-Manty, all of whom left an impression on the final product. ...

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Introduction: Conceiving a Human Being

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pp. ix-xvi

According to biographers, Immanuel Kant was fond of exclaiming, “Is it possible to conceive a human being with more perfect health than myself?” (Youngquist 1999, 347). Waking every morning at exactly 4:55, he ate only foods he considered conducive to thinking, carefully measured out an exact dosage of sleep, ...

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1. The Choice of Law: Autonomy between Norm and Creation

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pp. 1-22

Rousseau’s Confessions includes a salacious passage describing a spanking at the hands of his caregiver, Mademoiselle de Lambercier, and his subsequent sexual arousal. He spends several pages describing his erotic response to the act of physical discipline and the profound impact it had on his relationships with women, ...

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2. Mature Subjects: Physical Education and the Political Child

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pp. 23-60

Whitney’s statements, a common expression of selfhood by a teenager, brought shock and horror from the crowd of mostly middle-aged women. In contrast, Dr. Phil’s admonition of the girl, emphasizing her age and minimizing her maturity, brought applause from the crowd. ...

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3. Intoxicated Citizens: America’s Drug War and the Body Politic

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pp. 61-96

Upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in 1986, Rosa Montoya de Hernandez was immediately detained by customs officials in a small room containing only a wastebasket. After forty-eight hours, during which Montoya de Hernandez refused to comply with customs officials ...

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4. Man Is a Political Animal: Self-Discipline and Its Beastly Other

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pp. 97-136

In 1386 an unnamed female defendant in France was charged with the mutilation and murder of a child. Following a public trial she was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. She was dressed in the clothing of a female menial laborer and then taken to the public square, where she was disemboweled and her limbs were torn off. ...

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5. Fit to Be Tied: Exercise Fads and Our Addiction to Autonomy

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pp. 137-166

The death of Len Bias in 1986 from cardiac arrest following his first encounter with cocaine became one of the most successful antidrug ads. Bias, a twenty-two-year-old All-American basketball star, had just been drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Boston Celtics and was set to become one of the highest played professional basketball players ever. ...

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Conclusion: Freedom and Self-Governance

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pp. 167-170

Within modern political thought, autonomy has played an important role in resisting various forms of power. The idea that individuals possess a capacity to reason for themselves and thus govern themselves challenged multiple forms of hierarchy and domination. ...


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pp. 171-184


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pp. 185-206


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pp. 207-210

E-ISBN-13: 9780816678471
E-ISBN-10: 0816678472
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816669578

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2011