The Politics Of Bodybuilding

A lot of people in our circles lift weights, trying to get bigger, stronger, faster, and more aesthetic. Why do we do it? Various rational justifications are brought forward in favor of increasing strength and build:

  • Athletic Performance. Men who are stronger, faster, and more skilled do better in sports. For those who compete in sports, this is a motivation to work out.
  • General Physical Preparedness. Many men lift and exercise to prepare for possible physical situations like fighting, physical labor, wrestling with the wife, or the collapse of civilization. This preparedness to have mastery over a wider range of situations also creates power that can be used in negotiation or sub-violent conflict.
  • Health. Strength and exercise make the body work better, be harder to injure, have better posture, and generally improve in health.
  • Sexual Aesthetics. Women are attracted to well-built men. Many men lift for this effect, to be able to get better results with women.
  • Social Aesthetics. Men who are bigger, stronger, and who look more masculine, command a stronger presence and even have more perceived intellectual and moral authority.
  • Mental Discipline. Lifting weights regularly, and challenging yourself to push your limits builds discipline and confidence. It also changes how you feel about your body and the world around you, causing you to be more active and have more agency.
  • Virtue. Developing the body to its proper natural potential, and keeping in good shape, is directly valuable as an element of virtue and the life well lived.

These are good reasons as they go, but they are only about the individual benefit of fitness and bodybuilding, without reference to social effects. They do not account for the apparent political dimension of bodybuilding.

In particular, why do men engaged in right-wing circles encourage each other to get fit and aesthetic, as an almost political activity?

The cheap answer, within the above reasons, is that we want to be built for the social and preparedness reasons; if your political coalition is well-built, it will be taken more seriously, and will have an easier time providing “event security” for itself.

But this answer does not address the asymmetry. Why is “fascist bodybuilding” an established phenomenon, while #swoleleft just turned into a joke? Beyond raw power, what are the inherent politics of bodybuilding?

And as a further set of questions, “general physical preparedness” is a well-defined target, but what even is “aesthetics”? What do people appreciate about a built-looking physique? If we could fake it, with steroids and water retention and synthol, would that count? Why are aesthetics so closely related to strength that the concepts are often treated as the same thing? If we target aesthetics, is that just vanity? Is insisting that it’s about strength just a way to not seem vain? And one might expect that if there is a political dimension to bodybuilding, it is related to aesthetics.

So, our questions are: what is the nature of aesthetics, what are the politics of bodybuilding, how are these related to each other, and how are they related to strength? To answer, let’s digress into a quick study of aesthetics:

In bodybuilding, and many other areas, aesthetics is about authentically and beautifully representing underlying functional virtue. The aesthetic form is an honest signal of some appreciated substance. The ideal specimen of aesthetics done properly is a classic Ferrari; the form is a well-presented but honest representation of underlying performance and luxury and attention to detail.

If you just had the surface appearance, that when examined, turned out to have nothing special under it, like a Pontiac Fiero with cast-iron 4-cylinder dressed up as a Ferrari with a cheap fiberglass bodykit, then the aesthetic effect fails when people notice this. The “look” alone falls flat, and even provokes indignation, because it’s not just the look, but also the substance, that people appreciate.

On the other hand, if you had just the functional substance, hidden under a layer of fat, with no attempt to present it well, it might get the job done, but “the job” isn’t really the point. No one will notice the substance, and those who do will not be as impressed.

So you need both impressive virtuous substance, and beautiful honest presentation, for aesthetic success.

But what is impressive about the substance of physical development of the human body? The functional utility, and the demonstration of discipline and health, is an obvious part of the impressiveness, but isn’t the whole story.

An aesthetic piece of equipment, like a sports car, a SpaceX rocket, an outfit, or a human body, embodies an impressive functional capability. It doesn’t matter whether the thing actually gets used for that, because the aesthetic effect is about an exciting story, not a practical reality. A rocket is cool because it evokes a world of space exploration, even if it has no relevance to your daily life at all. If that narrative is too divorced from reality, or the actual substance isn’t there, you stop caring and think it’s just pointless and stupid.

A classic Ferrari tells a story about the kind of world it is from and built for. It says “I have a 300hp 12-cylinder engine and a 5-speed transmission. Every piece of me fits together in functional harmony, designed by men of judgement and discretion left over from a better age. I am capable of driving fast, of mastery of motion, and of dominating others in a contest of speed.” It says “I am prepared for the kind of world in which it is important to be able to drive fast, make exciting corners, accelerate hard, and feel the wind in your hair. Where the mundane concerns of your Toyota Corolla life do not matter. In my world, old Italian masters of the mechanical craft build beautiful artifacts of power and live in harmonious communities thousands of years old.”

This is not the real world, but that doesn’t matter. It’s an almost-plausible vision of a more exciting and better world, actualized by the Ferrari. In turn, the Ferrari makes our world a little bit more like that better world. People find the Ferrari compelling not just because it looks cool, or because it is practical in our world, but because it is highly practical in a better and more exciting world than our own, and because it contributes to our world being a little bit more like that world.

Likewise, a physically perfect human body tells a compelling story. It tells a story where the human is a practical instrument of power and life, and the man in top physical and mental condition is an apex predator, dominant over his environment. A man developed to the fullest extent of his innate possibility tells a story where moreso than our world, humans, and the kind of things humans are and can become, really matter–where we are not just obsolete substitutes for future soulless artificial intelligence, fading in relevance, nor are we manlet “bugman” serfs pushed around by soft-totalitarian masters, but we are instead exuberantly relevant students of godhood. A human body in peak physical condition says to the world around it “you must submit”, and to the people around it “I am not of this world. Come with me if you want to really live”.

In the modern world, that physical perfection is an obsolete vanity item, a holdout of our more physical past. And it’s not just our physicality that the modern world is becoming hostile to, but also the entire traditional conception of human life. People subconsciously recognize this hostility, so any sign of human vitality for its own sake is appreciated as a symbol of rebellion against crushing modernity, and as an instrument of a better world. This appreciation is not conscious; people may not even realize the contrast between human vitality and modernity, but implicitly it is there. The well-developed physique subtly makes one feel good, because it makes one feel hope for the human spirit, hope that the world is ours. This is why it is used in advertising.

It is interesting that the well-developed human physique and human beauty, a celebration of life, are used in advertising and movies. The idea is to associate the product with that vitality and portray the product as being of that better world. This is typically false advertising, as the products, companies, kind of people, and social forces represented by such advertising typically take us deeper into the modern malaise, rather than liberating us from it. But advertising doesn’t have to be true to work; what matters is that people feel the malaise, and are thus open to the vision of hope in the form of human vitality apparently offered by the product.

I believe this is a major factor in the aesthetics of bodybuilding. Done well, it is an overt celebration of life and human vitality, and its impact is that it promises a more human world.

The reaction represents exactly that spirit. The rebellion of the human spirit against a degenerate modern world which inverts the natural order and reduces life to individualistic pleasure without higher meaning. The perfected human body represents exactly the world that the reaction represents, and so must be our symbol.

So, reactionaries must perfect our bodies as a symbol of what we are, and what kind of world we want. We want our very physical substance to embody what our words say: “We will create a better world, suited for dignified human life. Come with us if you want to live”.

Thus, our bodies become spiritual weapons against modernity.

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  1. Very interesting read. I would reccommend Evola’s “Meditations on the Peaks” which dives deeper into how some physical challeges are (for good reason) considered an archetype of transcendance and nobility in many traditional cultures.

  2. Rational Stirnerist March 27, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    The superficiality of the modern world is one of the things that I hate the most. And to be honest in the modern bodybuilding there isn’t too much of that deep functionality. But the bar doesn’t lie, that is why I think the proper way is powerbuilding or aesthetic athleticism. To work both on how you present yourself and body functionality you have to combine some kind of objectively measurable strength sport like powerlifting, in which I compete myself with conscientious dieting and cardio. I wonder whether there are more reactionary powerlifters or weightlifters.

    1. Fascinating article. You put into words the spirit I have felt putting in countless hours over the last 6 years since I became gym rat. Transitioning from exercise for wrestling to competing with myself through weightlifting and dabbling in powerlifting. Of course there is an pleasing aesthetics benefit da ladys like, but its also a spiritual empowerment and building of reactionary type virtues Iv not been able to describe that you finally put on paper.

    2. As always my friend, the principle of specificity. Comparing lifting for aesthetics and strength training is an Apple and Orange thing and one is nevee better than the other. I myself think btw that 50s bodubuilding was MORE superficial because that period produced the greatest bodies of grecian gods unlike the one we have today who look like monsters with huge guts.
      I myself train for aesthetics but never competed my whole life.

      I think training for aesthetics can be objective too because the tape measure doesnt lie. Who said that aesthetics lifting is limmited to BB contests right?

      Another thing is that No Modern humans are not more superficial. Humans have always been the same and psychology never changed and nor did human stupidity.
      We dont have to love it but we need to be aware of them so we can use its knowledge to our advantage. Look at pro marketers.. They are the ones who know human psyche best.

      In all humans have always been more emotional than rational but that’s just the fact.

    3. Well, there are. In Greece most powerlifters are reactionaries, nationalists and far right. In weighgtifting things are not so right wing but there are a lot of people who are politicaly orbited to the national ideology ( ethnikofrones). One of the two and biggest chain stores for nutrition supplement products in the country, belongs to a reactionary. Also many others in the martial arts community and sport shooting community are right wing to far right wing. All these muscular, militant, war sports and arts make a lot of Greek patriots to feel that in a way they are getting a connection with our past and our ancient and medieval ancestors, practicing and training as they did. It is a no go community for the vast majority of neomarxists.

  3. Beautifully written. Thank you for the work, Michael.

  4. My own meditations on the subject, which complement this article:

  5. ConantheContrarian March 28, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Body building is a nice thread in the right-wing aesthetic. I lift weights to become strong for the particular martial art that I practice, and in lifting those weights I have lost weight, sculpted my body a little bit, and become stronger.

  6. this post (especially the part about the ferrari) reminds me of the argument for expertise and appreciation of quality that is put forth in ‘zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.’ am i right? did you think about that book at all?

    [Rescued from spam. -NBS]

    1. Michael Perilloux April 10, 2017 at 2:28 am

      I have not read that book. How worth reading is it?

  7. I run for endurance. I weight lift mainly for aesthetics – plus side is my strength increases.

  8. “I am not of this world. Come with me if you want to really live”.

    This statement!!
    Great article Michael.
    Just to share- Lifting really has many great benefits but none of them I care about as long as i am swole
    But thanks for comparing lifters to Ferrari I really appreciate it.. And I have never thought of implications of a robust body to marketing

    Your article really explained the impact of a great looking physique to the human mind.

  9. Marcello Gallian April 1, 2017 at 11:22 am

    I have no criticisms for this article. It was inspiring to read. Reaching physical potential is exemplary of the “student of godhood”. The world of platonic forms becomes more tangible as we build the strength necessary to grasp at it. This strength is continuous. It goes beyond the aesthetic form and becomes practical in securing a mate. It increases the probability of our progeny coming into physical form, and our progeny increase the probability of our ascendence into the perfect world of godhood. Godhood, to me, is the culmination of our journey, and physical mastery is indispensable to our success.

  10. Baxter McQuackster April 5, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    This is so beautiful. Truly.

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