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The Visual Du Jour – Global Nip/Tuck

February 2, 2013 by and tagged ,

A while back, I reviewed a book on the sociology of plastic surgery, Making The Cut. That book was prescient and the trends it discussed have not abated in the context of the cosmetic surgical culture:

“In the new economy nothing is more sexy than surgery. From Botox to lipo to tummy tucks and mini-facelifts, the number of cosmetic surgery operations undertaken around the globe has soared recently, as consumers spend more and more on themselves in the search for sex appeal and artificial beauty. In a society in which celebrity is divine, information technology rules, new ways of working predominate and people increasingly judge each other on first impressions, cosmetic enhancements of the body have become all the rage.” (7)”

And so, the Economist has a chart with more recent data on the trend:

And this cosmetic surgical culture has gone global.

As Elliott stated in his book:

“My argument is that the new economy spawned by globalization intrudes traumatically in the emotional lives of people – with many scrambling to adjust to today’s routine corporate redundancies. (…) The dramatic changes now occurring in the global electronic economy and on the ways in which corporate layoffs, downsizings and offshorings are affecting people’s sense of identity, life and work. (…) Many have reacted to this sense of social dislocation and economic insecurity – what I term today’s pervasive sense of ambient fear – by turning to forms of extreme reinvention in general and cosmetic surgical culture in particular. Many are calculating that a freshly purchased face-lift or suctioning of fat through liposuction is the best route to improved live, careers and relationships.” (9)

As I wrote in my review, the cosmetic surgical culture is an individual response to a social-structural issue (C. Wright Mills, anyone?), that is, the pressures of corporate life and the global economy. In the context of general economic insecurity, even for social classes that not so long ago considered themselves secure (after all, the 1980s layoffs affected mostly industrial workers, but, as conventional wisdom went, it is just an upgrading of the economy. Once the labor structure moves away from union-heavy industrial labor towards a more education service-trained workforce, then, everything will be fine… because brown people will never be able to do the educated, technological jobs of the service economy… how did that turn out?).

In the cosmetic surgical culture, the personal  / subjective responds to the structural / objective. As the global conditions trickle down to individual societies and ultimately to individuals, they generate uncertainties (and Elliott does not mention the risk society but I think this theory is relevant here) regarding work, relationships and life in general to which the cosmetic surgical culture is a response.

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