Fatigue and the fin de siècle

In this chapter, Steffan Blayney focuses on the ongoing tension between the overwhelmingly fast pace of industrial modernity, and the natural rhythms and pulses of the finite energies of the human body. Demands for increased velocity of thought and action inculcated a variety of concerns about modernity and its limits, and about social, political, and cultural decline. Fatigue emerged in the latter decades of the century as a particularly disturbing symptom of modernity, representing both its degrading effects and its immanent limits. Blayney examines constructions of fatigue at the end of the nineteenth century, as both scientific object and cultural metaphor, situating this condition alongside other such fin-de-siècle signifiers as decadence and degeneration. In this context, Blayney approaches fatigue as the bodily manifestation of the second law of thermodynamics, as well as a critical part of the new medical terminology that proliferated in order to designate the exhausting effects of modern life. It was expressive of the inevitable dissipation of energy that accompanied the performance of work in this period. Paradoxically, an epidemic of fatigue appeared both as the main obstacle to the progressive development of industrial civilisation, and as the most indubitable evidence of its ascendancy.

in Progress and pathology

This chapter considers how influential strains of theorising in International Relations have fed what is described as a ‘vulgar Leninism’, in which the basic problems of the contemporary international order are distorted and misconstrued. Instead of imperial rapacity, this chapter argues that it is imperial failure that must be explained. Alternatives to intervention and empire, such as state-building, are also considered and shown not to get around the problems posed by the need for self-determination. The new form of state authority emerging from the era of permanent intervention is considered, its paradigmatic statement being the doctrine of the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P). It is argued that to do proper justice to this paradigm it needs to be considered not purely as an international norm or emerging form of law, but rather as a theory of state. Once analysed like this, it becomes apparent that this doctrine embodies a paternalist legitimisation of state power that cuts against ideas of representative government in favour of simply providing security. It is shown that the implications of this new paradigm are even more authoritarian than the traditional Hobbesian accounts of state power.

in Cosmopolitan dystopia

The ultras style of football fandom emerged in 1960s Italy and has spread across Europe and the Mediterranean, to North America and Asia. This is not a history of the ultras, but an analysis of the way history has been used and incorporated into the ultras’ performance. History is an important foundation of ultras groups. It can act as an ‘invented tradition’ where ultras integrate historical narratives of their club, city and nation to present themselves to others. This chapter illustrates some of the many ways in which history has been incorporated into the development of the ultras style.

in Ultras
Daktar Binodbihari Ray Kabiraj and the metaphorics of the nineteenth-century Ayurvedic body

‘Western’ medicine is not the only tradition to have engaged with constructions of modernity. During the nineteenth century, so-called ‘traditional’ medicines around the globe were also forced to confront the notion of modernity in all its diversity. The Ayurveda tradition of South Asia was one such medical practice, and at the core of this chapter by Projit Bihari Mukharji is a demonstration of the modernity of Ayurveda. The interplay between Ayurvedic practice and social, cultural, and economic change in nineteenth-century South Asia was, he shows, twofold. Ayurvedic physicians such as Daktar Binodbihari Ray Kabiraj not only developed a self-conscious discourse about modernity and its effects upon the body and mind, but they explicitly drew upon the language of modernity in order to radically reconfigure the Ayurvedic body. Railways and telegraphs, for these physicians, were not simply new material realities; they were also a rich ideational resource that encouraged and inspired them to think in new ways about the human body and its operations.

in Progress and pathology
Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People and the hybrid pathways of Chinese modernity

In this chapter, Alice Tsay tracks the global history of a patent medicine known as Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People, from its invention in Canada in 1866 to promotional spreads in Chinese-language publications in early twentieth-century Shanghai. By the time they made their appearance in Shanghai in the early decades of the twentieth century, Dr Williams’ pills were widely derided in England and North America as an archetypal example of quackery, with commentators identifying the pills’ continued ubiquity as a sign of the public’s refusal to recognise scientific progress. Foreign advertisements for Dr Williams’ pills, however, engaged with notions of modernity from within their own social and cultural framework. Rather than simply translating their Anglo-American counterparts, Shanghai advertisements for the pills came to articulate a distinctly Chinese vision of twentieth-century society in their depiction of new gender roles, their absorption of non-Western medical discourse, and their use of baihua, the emerging vernacular. The discourse of the modern, in the case of this consumer product, was carefully tailored to its audience, and was part of an ongoing dialogue between producers and consumers.

in Progress and pathology
Open Access (free)
The ‘pathology’ of childhood in late nineteenth-century London

Using the records of children admitted to the Church of England-sponsored Waifs and Strays Society as its principal source material, the chapter constructs a new paradigm that seeks to better understand the lives of poor and disabled children, youngsters who were thought to be beyond the clutches of state improvement and impervious to the evangelical efforts of reformers and rescuers. It does so by exploring nineteenth-century ideas about childhood disability, and how these reinforced and challenged perceptions of what it meant to be a ‘modern’ child in nineteenth-century England. The key years in establishing the pathologically different childhood as a distinct conceptual entity were, the chapter shows, between 1870 and 1914, which was the height of child rescue efforts. Detailed examinations of family testimony and institutional responses during this period demonstrate that the romantic desire to ‘protect’ children, which was imposed on urban, working families by an evangelical and reforming middle class, was the very impetus that created the notion of the ‘imperfect’ youngster who did not, or could not, conform to the enlightenment ideal of modern childhood.

in Progress and pathology
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The rise of cosmopolitan dystopia

This chapter lays out the theme of cosmopolitan dystopia, and shows that the most direct and concrete embodiment of the failure of global cosmopolitanism was expressed in the rise of ISIS in the Middle East. The Introduction explains that the counter-utopianism built into the structure and functioning of cosmopolitan human rights means that cosmopolitanism is reactive rather than transformative, with the result that humanitarian politics is trapped in a loop of responding to humanitarian emergencies with military force. Incapable of transcending the existing political order, efforts at melioration succeed only in eroding that order. The end result of these cumulative military interventions is a decayed liberal international order and a cosmopolitan dystopia of permanent war across the Greater Middle East.

in Cosmopolitan dystopia
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Football fandom is an important area of research that covers a wide range of activities, people and places around the world. This chapter introduces the ultras style of fandom and situates it within the wider academic literature on football fandom. It highlights how fandom meets in the broader public sphere and engages politically within the wider politico-economic changes in football, and wider social world. Within the football stadium, there is a performance of fans’ identities which helps generate and sustain their emotions. Significantly, fandom is emotionally charged and this fuels the ultras’ engagement in the sport, but also their interactions, relationships and sense of individual and collective self.

in Ultras
Open Access (free)

The introduction demonstrates that nineteenth-century advances in the fields of technology, science, and medicine, while clearly constituting ‘progress’ for some, nonetheless prompted deep concern about the problems and pathologies that could potentially be induced by modern life. An increasing number of references to the problems of ‘modern times’ and the ‘wear and tear’ of modern life can be traced throughout the nineteenth-century medical and general press across national boundaries and cultures, in nations with distinctive politics, practices, and body imaginaries. Taking up the concept of ‘modernity’ as a self-referential concept, employed and applied within any given social and cultural moment by those seeking to express what they regard as new conditions in the social order, we outline the central aim of our volume: to track a range of anxieties and varieties of experience, as they were expressed and explored in the literature, science, and medicine of the time. The volume explores their impact upon social, cultural, and medical formations of the mind and body.

in Progress and pathology

This chapter considers various accounts offered for the challenges confronting liberal international order today, and finds them wanting. It is argued that the most militarily aggressive and revisionist states over the thirty years since the end of the Cold War have been the status quo states of the West, not ‘emerging powers’ such as Russia or China. It is Western states that have repeatedly used force to reshape the international order as well as adapting international organisation to suit their new humanitarian outlook. This cuts against the expectations of International Relations theory regarding the origin of revisionist challenges to international order, and requires explanation. As this new form of liberal revisionism arises from the status quo states rather than outside them, this type of behaviour is called ‘inverted revisionism’.

in Cosmopolitan dystopia