How to Exercise without Sweating: Leisure and the Erasure of Labour

This post is the first of a strand of enquiry that seeks to contextualise capitalist renderings of the body. What are the affective implications if ‘wellness’ is set out to tender as a means of keeping bodies fit and supple for neoliberal agendas?

~ syncing bodies to the incessant rhythm of capital

In Neomaterialism, Joshua Simon explores how machines inflect and design the body to change and reconfigure itself in service of the movement and flow of capital. In the chapter The Language of Commodities, Simon positions the relationship between the post-industrial proletariat and the gym. Here, the ability to expend surplus energy as a leisure pursuit presents itself as an opportunity for the proletariat to continue to perform their propensity to work, demonstrating their seemingly inexhaustible material value.

~ total body conditioning

In this high-performance culture, Q-Self software applications promise self knowledge through numbers, offering individuals top-sight of their own lives. The recent proliferation of Q-self and fitness tracking software applications serve to further co-opt perceptions leisure time in late capitalism. Social fitness is imperative, value is tethered to one’s on digital toil, to one’s ability to transpose experience to capital. This element of ‘gamification’ that these applications introduce mobilise the formally leisure activities in such a way as to extract value without payment. Through their alignment to ideals of ‘self betterment’, these applications colonise the body, positioning ‘self improvement’ as a process of becoming legible to capital. This cultivation of the data-self serves to efface the borders between life and work, between dominance and servitude

~ sweat as public exhaustion

Through the affect of efficiency, work is transposed from a conscious activity performed within a distinct workplace and internalised to become thoroughly habitual - ingrained in all facets of life.

These economies of value are contingent on the systemic exploitation of vital energy. As agents of neoliberal soft control, these fitness applications articulate the demand that the mechanisms of labour be invisible, abstracted and mystified. The idea of exercising without sweating is analogous to how so much of neoliberal working conditions of the global north serve to expedite the erasure of labour altogether ~ results are yours for the taking (without sweating)

Google returns page after page of search results that offer advice on how to work-out without sweating in an effort to conceal the squandering of biopower. Here, sweat can be read as an unwanted indicator of toil, the deprivatisation and public externalisation of exhaustion - a sign that work is taking place, that a bodily limit is being reached.

Sweat belies so called immaterial labour by revealing it’s all too material reality