Five Bodies offers an introduction to some of the most urgent contemporary concerns within the sociology of the body. The book was first published in 1985 in the USA by Cornell University Press, and was nominated for the John Porter Award (sponsored by the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association). A path breaking book, it offered a framework for the growing field of the sociology of the body and opened up ‘the body’ for sociological research. This new edition (the previous edition was published by Cornell University Press (1985) has been substantially revised and updated to address today's issues of the body in modern life, community and politics. John O'Neill examines how embodied selves and relationships are being re-shaped and re-figured and how the embodied figures of the polity, economy and society represent the contested notions of identity, desire, wholeness and fragmentation. He focuses upon those cultural practices through which we map our macro–micro worlds: articulating a cosmology; a body politic; a productive/consumptive economy; a bio-technological frontier of human design and transplantation.
In this chapter I want to return to the most familiar image of the body – the body that has needs. Between birth and death, we do many things simply to maintain the body as the instrument of much else we seek. For the moment neglecting those intrauterine needs that are present even from the time of conception and leaving aside those that are present even in the process of dying, we may think of life in between these points as the ceaseless pursuit of satisfactions pressed upon us by our bodily condition. We need food, drink, clean air, rest, shelter, clothing, a certain standard of public health and safety; and we need these things both to sustain life and to reproduce ...