Explaining trends in body weight: Offer's rational and myopic choice vs elias' theory of civilizing processes

Mirjam Stuij*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Avner Offer argues that the current increase in average body weight arises from a problem of self-control. Self-control is a central concept in Norbert Elias' theory of civilizing processes, but Offer rejects this theory as an explanation for the trend. I show in this paper that Offer's rejection of this theory is based on invalid arguments. Furthermore, considering the empirical data, I demonstrate that the new environment of abundance is not accompanied by a general decline in self-control, as Offer argues, but leads to a differentiated increase in new forms of self-control, as can be explained by Elias' theory. Like Offer, I argue for an explanation for the trends in body weight from an anthropometric historical perspective. The starting point, however, should be social differentiation. Finally, I clarify the concept of self-control, as this is a debated issue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)796-812
Number of pages17
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011

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