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  • Published: 31 May 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241439043
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $45.00


A Defence of the Unmodified Body

A vital exploration of equality and the body from an acclaimed political philosopher

The pressure to change our bodies is overwhelming. We strive to defy ageing, build our biceps, cure our disabilities, conceal our quirks. Surrounded by filtered photos and surgically-enhanced features, we must contort our physical selves to prejudiced standards of beauty. Perfection is impossible, and even an acceptable body seems out of reach.

In this thought-provoking, original work, acclaimed political philosopher Clare Chambers argues that the unmodified body is a key political principle. While defending individuals' right to change their bodies, she argues that the social pressures to modify undermine equality. She shows how the connected ideas of the natural body, the normal body, and the whole body have been used both to disrupt and to maintain social hierarchies - sometimes oppressing, other times liberating. The body becomes a site of political importance: a place where hierarchies of sex, gender, race, disability, age, and class are reinforced.

Through a clear-sighted analysis of the power dynamics that structure our society, and with examples ranging widely from bodybuilding to breast implants, deafness to male circumcision, biology to gender identity, Intact stresses that we must break away from the oppressive forces that demand we alter our bodies. Instead, it offers a bold, transformative vision of the human body that is equal without expectation.

  • Published: 31 May 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241439043
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $45.00

About the author

Clare Chambers

Clare Chambers was born in 1966, attended school in Croydon, read English at Oxford and wrote her first novel while she was living in New Zealand. Clare's novel Learning to Swim won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 1998. She now lives in Kent with her husband and young family.

Also by Clare Chambers

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Praise for Intact

Essential reading for anyone with a body -- whether you love your body, hate your body, or fall somewhere in between, Clare Chambers will reshape how you think about it. Timely and trenchant, Intact recovers a seemingly lost principle: bodies matter. The significance of the material body for social and political justice, especially for historically oppressed groups, finds a stunning defense in these pages. You, your body, however it is, is good just as it is: a simple, but powerful statement of the fundamental equality of all persons.

Lori Watson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Washington at St Louis

In this cogently argued and insightful book, Clare Chambers calls for us all to reject the pervasive messages that our bodies aren't good enough and instead to accept and value the bodies we have. Intact is an essential read for all educators, policy makers, researchers and all those ready to call time on the beauty myths

Nichola Rumsey OBE, Professor, UWE Bristol

A wonderfully rich book. It's not easy to combine complex, rigorous philosophy with clear and engaging prose. But Clare Chambers pulls this off brilliantly here

David Edmonds, author of Wittgenstein's Poker

Intact shocks and startles with real human stories but is both compassionate and challenging, warmly human and coolly rigorous. It left me questioning so many assumptions - what is natural, or normal? Who should decide what's best for other people's bodies, and how? I am now thinking afresh about how I live in my own body, in a world where, as Clare Chambers argues, nobody's body is ever allowed to be good enough, just as it is

Timandra Harkness, author of Big Data

A bold and brilliant book. Clare Chambers lucidly challenges the unquestioned assumptions of our visual culture. Intact is unique in its breadth, considering body modifications from make-up, to body building, to surgery and tattooing. She does not question the individual's right to change their body, but does question the social positioning of such choices. For the naming of 'shametenance' alone this book should be a bestseller

Heather Widdows, author of Perfect Me

A pleasure to read because it's packed with new (to me) information and ideas and so absorbingly readable. A must-read for psychotherapists, doctors and everyone else who enjoys connecting ideas

Philippa Perry (Twitter)

Intact is humane, generous, thought-provoking and sensible (great to see a mainstream philosopher discussing disability & Deafness too)

Tom Shakespeare (Twitter)

A barnstormer. Intact is a timely, challenging, troubling work. Clare Chambers argues that the unmodified body is valuable in itself, that it is a morally privileged baseline, and that it is - and should be - a site of political resistance against unwanted social pressures to modify


A nuanced, subtle and thoughtful book . . . anyone who is remotely interested in these topics will get a lot out of it and understand just how important this debate is and how it touches on our lives often without our even noticing it

Julian Baggini

A beautifully written and thoughtful push back against all the people and powers that have made us, as a society, feel that our bodies need to be altered


Moving and huge in scope ... it has made me feel better about how I feel about my body

New Statesman, Rachel Cunliffe

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