Episode

3/23 Fitness as Consumption; UK’s Cynical “Great Moderation” w/ Natalia Mehlman-Petrzela & Daniel Finn

March 23, 2023

It’s an EmMajority Report Thursday! She hosts Natalia Mehlman-Petrzela, professor of history at The New School, to discuss her recent book Fit Nation: The Gains And Pains Of America’s Exercise Obsession. Then she is joined by Daniel Finn, features editor at Jacobin, to discuss his recent piece “Britain’s Power Elite Has Defeated Its Challengers by Creating a Political Wasteland”. Emma first runs through updates on another Fed interest rate increase, a Federal appeals judge ruling against Trump, Biden shutting down the White House’s COVID response team, the Senate voting to keep the AUMF, the Chicago Teachers’ union backing Brandon Johnson, and various updates on far-right challenges to democracy and Queer life, before parsing through Bernie Sanders’ confrontation with Moderna over their planned vaccine price gauge. Natalia Mehlman-Petrzela then joins as she and Emma dive right into the history of America’s fitness obsession and the complicated push and pull between progress with self-expression and corporations capitalizing on developing misogynist and capitalist expectations. First, Mehlman-Petrzela looks to the legacy of Jack LaLanne, the first Fifties fitness guru, and how his programs served to start a shift from seeing fitness as an ego-driven hobby to a fundamental aspect of self-improvement and health with broad consensus. After parsing through LaLanne’s particular marketing to suburban housewives, Natalia and Emma tackle the development of the fitness industry not around communal ideas of public health, but hyper-individualized concepts of self-improvement that nestled somewhere between labor and leisure, and how this saw success across the political spectrum, before wrapping up the interview with the impact of the 2008 financial crisis, fitness’ full transformation into a consumptive industry, and the hyper-atomization that we’ve seen since develop over the last few years. Daniel Finn and Emma then parse through his recent piece responding to the Economist’s dubbing of a new era of British politics as a new “Great Moderation,” which attempts to paint the active expulsion of the left wing from politics as a return to a politics of managerial competence after a period of populist demagoguery. Parsing through this, Finn tackles the very-much-still-relevant presence of the populist far-right in British politics and why that is seen as valuable to the center-right establishment, before he and Emma step back to assess how the British establishment was able to expunge the left wing of the labor party from mainstream politics. They first look to the material foundation of the 2008 financial crisis that was met with a decade of British austerity which completely crippled the working class, also exploring the two challenges it faced: one in the form of Scottish independence led by Nicola Sturgeon and the other in the emergence of a Labour movement led by Jeremy Corbyn. Wrapping up the interview, Finn walks Emma through the process through which the British establishment, bolstered by the mainstream press, was able to fearmonger over wedge-issue culture wars, taking a single element of a popular platform (trans rights for Sturgeon and pro-Palestine support for Corbyn) and painting it as a broad strokes undemocratic attack on a minority group.

And in the Fun Half: Emma is joined by Brandon Sutton and Matt Binder as they talk with Brian from Flagstaff about gun buyback’s potential in the US, also watching Russell Brand rep the Rumble brand, and the recent TikTok congressional hearing. Alena from VA on the coverage of Marianne Williamson, Charlie Kirk and Chaya Raichik use TikTok to connect the transphobic and anti-Chinese moral panics, and we get the previews of Sam’s appearance on the PBD podcast, plus, your calls and IMs!

Check out Natalia’s book here: https://nataliapetrzela.com/books/fit-nation/
Check out Daniel’s piece here: https://jacobin.com/2023/03/britain-power-elite-political-wasteland-corbyn-sturgeon-starmer-media

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