The refrain of social theorists has always been that the world is changing, and that the imprint of social change should be visible on all of life’s major landscapes. If the observation post is high enough, the broad contours of social change are unmistakable: the world is becoming less formal, more casual, less authoritarian, but also less civil; at the same time, people are becoming kinder, gentler, and also smarter about their planet, their bodies, and their relationships with other living things.
If any of these lofty propositions are true, evidence of such truths should abound. We can test some of these hypotheses on various sports and fashion domains, beginning with the very timely subjects of obesity and physical fitness.
Our national concern for health and fitness has reached epidemic proportions. In and of itself, this is a good thing; and in that it also affirms a key values trend (that we are increasingly concerned about our bodies) it is a resounding affirmation of social theory…until the fitness revolution is washed away by another highly-publicized megatrend — the obesity epidemic.